Stutthof concentration camp, Poland. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA / PHILIPP P EGLI)
...the newly-approved Polish bill ...didn’t just ban the phrase “Polish death camps” like the headlines say. It outlaws any mention of Polish complicity in the Nazi atrocities, and the offense carries a prison sentence of three years.
Here are some facts about Poland and the Holocaust:
- Half of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust, about 3 million, were Polish.
- Over 90% of Poland’s Jewish population was slaughtered in the Holocaust. You don’t get to numbers like that without cooperation.
- In 1941, Poles in the Jedwabne started a pogrom, and locked Jews in a wooden barn that they set on fire.
- After the war ended, another pogrom against Jewish refugees took place in Kielce, which is only one of about a dozen cases of postwar violence against Polish Jews sparked by blood libels.
- Stories abound about Jews who tried to return to their homes in Poland only to be threatened or murdered by their former neighbors – including some people who I know personally.
At the same time, yes, over 6,000 Poles have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, and hundreds were killed by the Nazis for helping Jews. Yes, the Polish government in exile helped expose Nazi concentration camps to the world. And yes, 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians were killed by the Nazis and others in combat ...
As a journalist, and as a freedom-loving individual, I abhor censorship. I can just barely stomach it for national security reasons. But this has no security value. This is censoring history to protect Poland’s national ego and avoid confronting the demons of its past. This is borderline Holocaust denial, and it goes along with a trend occurring in neighboring countries, like Hungary and Ukraine.
...Poland needs to face facts. Their country was deeply antisemitic, and it remains so. An Anti-Defamation League poll from 2014 shows 45% of Poles hold antisemitic views.
The way to let go of hate is for Poles who want better for their country to admit it’s there, talk about it, and try to release the demons. Censoring talk of Polish people’s complicity in the Holocaust will only make the hatred that allowed these atrocities to take place simmer and deepen.