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Anorak | Poland absolves itself of all complicity in the Holocaust

Poland absolves itself of all complicity in the Holocaust

by | 11th, February 2018

The letter from the Polish League Against Defamation informed us: “There were only camps established by Germany in German-occupied Poland. The proper reference to the German camps therefore is as follows:

– German camps in German-occupied Poland

– German Nazi camps in German-occupied Poland

– German camps in Nazi-occupied Poland

– Nazi camps in German-occupied Poland.”

It is “gravely false and highly defamatory” to call the Nazi camps in German-occupied Poland “Polish death camps”, or any variant thereof.

Poland’s president Andrzej Duda has signed-off a law that that makes it criminal to suggest his country supported Nazi war crimes during the 1939-1945 occupation. The new law, he reasons, maintains Poland’s “dignity and historical truth”. If you call Auschwitz a  “Polish death camp” you could be fined or imprisoned for three years.

“All the atrocities and all the victims, everything that happened during World War II on Polish soil, has to be attributed to Germany,” says Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. “We will never be accused of complicity in the Holocaust. This is our ‘to be or not to be’… This law is not going to limit speech, not even one iota.”

Germany is on side.

“Without directly interfering in the legislation in Poland, I would like to say the following very clearly as German chancellor: We as Germans are responsible for what happened during the Holocaust, the Shoah, under National Socialism (Nazism),” said Angela Merkel in her weekly video podcast.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel states: “This organized mass murder was carried out by our country and no one else. Individual collaborators change nothing about that. We are convinced that only carefully appraising our own history can bring reconciliation. That includes people who had to experience the intolerable suffering of the Holocaust being able to speak unrestrictedly about this suffering.”

But how can any law banning words and opinions enable unrestricted speech?

Peter Muchlinski, SOAS, University of London, UK, notes: “There are fears that the law would put virtually every Jewish survivor of the Holocaust in Poland at risk of prosecution. I’ve read hundreds of survivors’ testimonies, yet I do not recall a single one where the writer has not described an episode of betrayal, blackmail or denunciation on the part of their fellow Polish citizens.”

Is something more in this?

Poland’s lower house of parliament endorsed the new legislation on January 26, the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Why then?

Many Poles helped Jews during the war. They were brave and righteous. If caught, they faced execution by the Nazis.

Morawiecki was touring the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa when he spoke.

The Markowa museum, which opened in 2016, stands near the place where German soldiers in 1944 killed Jozef Ulma, his pregnant wife Wiktoria and their six small children, as well as eight members of the Goldman, Gruenfeld and Didner families that the Ulmas were sheltering.

Mateusz Szpytma, deputy director of the museum, said it is estimated that between 700 and 1,100 Poles were murdered by the Germans for helping Jews during the war.

At the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem, 6,706 Poles are honoured for their role in helping Jews.

Facts are vital. But how are they established if not through free speech and free expression? It’s a perverted sense of liberty that advances freedom in negative terms – a freedom from ideas, speech and words, rather than the pursuit of a positive freedom to speak and to challenge. From “Arbeit macht frei”, the sick message that hung over the gate to Auschwitz, the message to today’s Poles is “Gesetz macht dich frei”, the law will provide.

Arkady Rzegocki, Polish ambassador to the UK, writes to the Times:

The new law does not set a precedent. Legislation penalising, for example, Holocaust denial is also reflected in the legal systems of other European countries.

Absurd, of course. Don’t try to understand why and how? Just dip the Holocaust in aspic and serve it as an orthodoxy to be consumed. Only bigots and berks deny the Holocaust and make liars of the millions murdered and everyone who knew them. That speech is trammelled on pain of law to protect the sane and reasoned from the foolish, biased and people who prefer the other side in the war is a sadness that undermines free speech, elevates the losers to something too close to martyrdom and presents Germans, French and anyone else living where Holocaust denial is a crime as mass-murderers-in-waiting, people for whom the Holocaust is not a horror but a neatly-packaged slice of history that were it not for banning orders most would consider an experiment worth revisiting.

You wonder who it is the authorities really hate and fear?

Rzegocki continues:

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of Holocaust denial, this is not only a denial that the Holocaust took place, but also a distortion of historical truth about its perpetrators and its circumstances. We believe that the truth about German death camps and the cruel reality of the German occupation of Poland is a part of the Holocaust’s history, and see the new law as complementary to the existing world regulation on Holocaust denial.

“World regulation on Holocaust denial”. To anyone who supports free speech, that line is chilling.

And now for some more context. The Guardian spots another landmark to Jewish persecution:

One lesser-known memorial is a small plaque on the wall of the Warszawa Gdańska railway station, a nondescript socialist-era building on the north side of the city. It was from here that many Poles of Jewish origin departed in the wake of the “anti-Zionist campaign” in March 1968, when cold war politics and a power struggle within the Polish Communist party led to an antisemitic propaganda campaign forcing thousands of Polish Jews to leave the country.

“Loyalty to socialist Poland and imperialist Israel is not possible simultaneously,” prime minister Józef Cyrankiewicz had declared in 1968. “Whoever wants to face these consequences in the form of emigration will not encounter any obstacle.” The plaque bears a tribute from the Polish-Jewish writer Henryk Grynberg: “For those who emigrated from Poland after March 1968 with a one-way ticket. They left behind more than they had possessed.”

And this:

Ruling party officials have claimed the row has been confected by Jewish advocacy groups seeking compensation for property restitution claims. An editorial on the rightwing TV Republika website described the crisis as “a big test of loyalty for the Polish Jews whose organisations are linked personally and institutionally with American Jews”, and accused them of “too rarely and too weakly defending Poland and the Poles in the international arena”.

“They want to break us – it’s about sovereignty, truth and money,” read the cover of Sieci, a weekly that has close ties to Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party.

DW adds:

Andrzej Zybertowicz, an adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda, said Israel’s negative reaction to the law stemmed from what he called a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust.”

Zybertowicz called Israel’s opposition to the new law “anti-Polish” and said it shows the Mideast nation is “clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust.”

“Many Jews engaged in denunciation, collaboration during the war. I think Israel has still not worked it through,” Zybertowicz said in the interview in The Polska-The Times newspaper on Friday.

Two words in reply: never forget.



Posted: 11th, February 2018 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians Comment | TrackBack | Permalink