Never Forget the History of Denial of the Shoah and Other Crimes Against Humanity

0 Comments 19 February 2018

Rabbis for Human Rights chairperson Rabbi Ed Rettig responds to recent statements from the Polish prime minister regarding the recently proposed Polish “Holocaust law.” 

Polish rescuers and Jewish survivors gather for tree planting in Park of the Rescued in Lodz, 2009. By M Z Wojalski – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

At the Munich Security Conference the Israeli journalist and historian Dr. Ronen Bergman posed a question to the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki about the new Polish Law forbidding the accusation of Poles for Nazi war crimes. Bergman challenged the Prime Minister by pointing out that his family was murdered with the help of Polish collaborators. Morawiecki responded that there indeed were collaborators from among the Poles as there were among the Jews, Russians and Ukrainians.

Morawiecki’s response was insulting and incendiary, a discarding of societal responsibility for the sins of its history through the use of an irrelevant comparison.

While it is true that there were Jews who collaborated with Nazis, and without for a moment justifying their actions, it is equally true that they were a result of the situation of extreme existential catastrophe that was the Jewish condition in the Shoah. The situation of Poles who collaborated was much different. While Polish society produced magnificent examples of people and groups who worked to save Jews, it also produced fascist antisemites who violently acted out their bigotries before, during and after the Shoah, with or without pressure from the Germans. They turned Jews over to the Nazis or killed them directly. There can be no meaningful moral comparison between the two situations. So, while it is not right to generalize by accusing Poles as a group of committing Nazi crimes, there were many in Polish society who took part in the murder campaign, who were close to the Nazis in their ideology and in their antisemitism.

When we deny or seek to cover up the crimes of the past, we make it even harder to appreciate the level of greatness achieved by Polish rescuers who contributed a heroic chapter to Polish and Jewish history, many of whom are commemorated at Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, in opposing the most horrendous assault on human rights in human history.



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