Experts say Israel must fight Polish Holocaust ‘whitewash’ law

Poland’s president signed a controversial bill that outlaws blaming Poland for crimes committed by Nazi Germany, but Holocaust experts say Poland can’t suppress the truth.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News and AP

Ignoring protests from the Israeli government, as well as the United States and Ukraine, Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday enacted a bill that outlaws blaming Poland as a nation for crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

Duda said earlier in the day that he planned to ask Poland’s constitutional court to evaluate the bill, leaving open the possibility it might be amended.

Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff from the Wiesenthal Center told World Israel News (WIN), “Israel must seek some sort of dialogue of experts’ in order to push for fundamental changes to the new law. Poland will not quash it but they can be encouraged to make modifications.”

Zuroff says that there were attempts to talk the Poles down from this well in advance, and said efforts have been underway dating back to 1998 when an international alliance of 31 countries was formed dedicated to Holocaust research and education.

“I am not terribly concerned about reports of fresh anti-Semitism in Poland. So far there have been no physical attacks on Jews. The reaction in Poland has consisted of a rash of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic social media posts and letters to the Israeli Embassy. There are many Polish citizens who want to whitewash the war crimes that Poles committed against Jews,” Zuroff said.

Zuroff was appalled that Ukraine was one of the countries listed as opposing the Polish law, but for its own twisted reasons. Poland is angry that some of the Ukrainians who killed Poles are now being hailed as Ukrainian national heroes. “I am quite concerned about Ukraine condemning the Polish law, for its own reasons.

“Ukraine is the worst country in terms of holocaust distortion. They are trying to minimize the role of their nationals in crimes against Jews and Poles, including involvement in systematic mass murder. Ukraine also claims that communism is just as bad as Nazism and they want to brand communist atrocities as genocide. This is particularly problematic because according to them, there were Jewish communists who committed alleged crimes. This allows Eastern Europe a way to de-legitimize claims against Ukrainians because they were victims of ‘communist atrocities. It takes away from the uniqueness of the Holocaust and it is simply untrue historically,” Zuroff said.

Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, Chief Editor of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs told WIN, “Once the dust clears, this affair will come to be seen as a grievous, self-inflicted wound on Poland’s good name and on its own hard-earned democracy. Instead of deflecting attention from the findings of the Polish scholars whose relentless research revealed an excruciating picture of Polish-Jewish relations in German-occupied Poland, the adoption of this contentious new law has thrust the issue onto the front pages of major newspapers all over the world.”

“As the uninitiated quickly learned, in this part of the world, history is fraught with emotion. William Faulkner said of his native Mississippi, ‘The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.’ He might well have been speaking of Poles and Jews… Sadly we are today witness to an outpouring of virulent anti-Semitic invective reflecting deep-seated feelings that had been long suppressed or were no longer fashionable. There is no denying that the present situation has left many of the most enthusiastic and eloquent proponents of Polish-Jewish dialogue deeply disheartened.

Any postmortem will also have to take into account the utterly shameful role played by the Jewish ‘enablers’—those who sought to advance their own agenda and the ‘useful idiots’ who signed on. They strengthened the hand of those spearheading this law by buying into the twisted narrative that was being foisted on an unsuspecting public and made it seem palatable,” Weinbaum said.

Bobby Brown, former Diaspora Affairs Adviser in the Prime Minister’s office told WIN, “There are a lot of laws in the world that Israel does not like. Fortunately we are a free country and research on the Polish involvement in the Holocaust will continue. There is research on Poles who saved Jews and there is also research indicating that Poles contributed to the destruction of Polish Jewry.

In Israel we value all new information that we are able to discover about the Holocaust martyrs. We can revenge their memories by finding the truth about their murderers. Poland wants to be completely exonerated and for everything to be blamed on the Germans. That is not going to happen. The concentration camps were on Polish soil but were German-run.

At the same time, the Nazi invasion encouraged many Poles to carry out anti-Semitic attacks. We are dedicated to the truth and if they don’t like the results of what we find, then too bad. We will bring that truth to Poland, even at the risk of facing arrest and prosecution.”

As written, the legislation approved by Polish lawmakers carries fines and prison sentences of up to three years for public statements that falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to Poland.