Poland Amends Holocaust Law

The Polish PM and Government supported a law to make it a punishable crime to refer to “Polish Concentration Camps,” or in any way to state or write that Poland was responsible for the Holocaust.  The negative reaction to this travesty from Israel, the US and some other countries was sufficient over time for the Polish Authorities to reverse themselves and they have now rescinded part of the law that makes such statements punishable crimes.

While it is a fact that the Concentration camps on Polish soil were built and organized for the industrial scale murder of Jews by the Germans, and while it is also true that the Germans murdered many thousands of Poles and treated them as Slavic untermenschen, nevertheless there is also no doubt whatsoever that the Poles were instrumental in the murders of a large proportion of the Polish Jews.  There were savage attacks on Polish Jews by their Polish neighbors, and it has been estimated that ca. 3 out of 5 Jews who were murdered were turned in by Poles, either for the reward or merely out of hatred.  It was really taking a risk for your life for a Jew to trust a Pole.  Then there were also the Polish massacres of Jews that took place during the War for, example at Jebwadne in 1941, and after the War was finished when Jews tried to return to their homes, for example in Kielcs in 1946.  To maintain that the Poles had nothing to do with the Holocaust is a deliberate distortion of history.

On the other hand, there were Poles who acted in a most humane way and helped Jews to survive.  Some examples come to mind, “The Zookeepers Wife” Antonina Zabinski saved the lives of hundreds of Jews by hiding them in the cellars of the Warsaw Zoo, after it had been largely destroyed during the bombing and the fighting.  Irena Sendler was a social worker who had access to the Warsaw Ghetto and managed to smuggle out dozens of Jewish children.   I once met Jan Karski, the Polish Army officer who was chosen to be smuggled into Auschwitz and who then wrote  a report of conditions there which in 1943 he took to London and submitted to Winston Churchill and then to Washington to Pres. Roosevelt.  He was angry that his report was not acted upon by the Allies.  There are many other stories and many Polish “righteous gentiles” honored at Yad Vashem. But, this in no way negates the responsibility of the Polish nation for their virulent anti-Semitic activities during WWII.