|A Polish police officer checks a Jewish man's documents at the Kraków Ghetto, 1941|
A story in the Washington Post shows just how far tight wingers will go to rewrite history in the hope of erasing references to their complicity in moral turpitude or even war crimes. The story relates to a pending law in Poland that would make it a crime to acknowledge the fact that even though Poland was occupied by Hitler's Nazi regime, there were plenty of Poles only to willing to participate in the genocide against Jews and other horrors. Yes, there were many Poles who tried to do the right thing and oppose the Nazi agenda as resistance fighters and by other means, but the shocking truth is that a large number were complicit - something the right wing wants to wash away from public memory and rewrite history so that only Germans were involved with, in the case of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the murder of over 1 million men, women and children. With the Trump/Pence regime pushing a racist, bigoted and homophobic agenda, will Trump loyalists including morally bankrupt evangelical Christians want to sanitize history to delete their own complicity, if not active engagement in moral wrongs? The effort in Poland shows the critical need that history tell the whole story lest future generations forget just how horrible individuals can be when confronted with evil - especially those who park themselves in church pews on Sundays and seemingly forget the Gospel message the moment they walk out the church door. Here are article highlights:
A diplomatic crisis between Israel and Poland appeared to be deepening on Sunday as Poland’s deputy chief of mission, Piotr Kozłowski, was summoned to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem over a law approved by the Polish parliament making it a criminal offence to mention Polish complicity in crimes committed during the Holocaust.Polish lawmakers voted Friday for a bill that would fine or jail people who blame Poland or Poles for Nazi atrocities committed on its soil during World War II, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The law still needs final approval from the Polish Senate and the country’s president.
It comes as the country has become more nationalistic. Tens of thousands of people chanted and marched through Warsaw last year in an annual gathering of Europe’s far-right movements, and the majority party has sought to protect Poland's image.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Kozłowski the vote's timing was “particularly surprising and miserable," pointing out that Friday was the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was also the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in southern Poland.
Polish officials say the law would not limit Holocaust research or the freedom of expression. Even though several death camps, including the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau, were built on Polish soil, Poles say they should be referred to as Nazi extermination camps or camps in occupied Poland, disassociating Poland from the Nazi crimes committed there.
The bill, which would jail even foreigners for up to three years for using terms such as “Polish extermination camps,” passed the lower legislature overwhelmingly. For the country's ruling Law and Justice Party, it's part of a years-long effort to prevent people from “slandering the good name of Poland,” as officials once put it.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Center, . . . . said the law was “liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust.” . . . . restrictions on statements by scholars and others regarding the Polish people's direct or indirect complicity with the crimes committed on their land during the Holocaust are a serious distortion,” read the Yad Vashem statement.
[B]etween these broad strokes of Nazi genocide and Polish heroism, some Poles also turned on Jews — or at least helped Germans kill them. . . . Villagers in Jedwabne, for example, reportedly locked about 300 Jewish residents in a barn and burned them alive in 1941, the BBC wrote. Some modern-day Poles deny the story or blame Germans for pressuring the villagers, but others see evidence of willing complicity throughout the occupation.
Jan Karski, a famed Polish resistance fighter, once told an interviewer of the “ruthless, often without pity” attitude some of his countrymen held for Poland's large Jewish population.
“The truth is that local authorities were often left intact in occupied Poland, and many officials exploited their power in ways that proved fatal to their Jewish constituents.”
Some Poles welcomed the forced removal of their Jewish neighbors from their homes, he wrote. Some happily enriched themselves at the expense of their dispossessed neighbors, and some “did not recoil from committing acts of murder, rape and larceny — not always orchestrated by the Germans.”