Jewish group calls on US to cut ties with Poland over Holocaust law

After less than 24 hours, a US-based Jewish foundation wound down its “hugely successful” campaign to counter Poland’s controversial Holocaust law. 

By: World Israel News Staff and AP

A prominent American Jewish foundation launched a campaign calling on the US to cut all diplomatic ties with Poland over its passing of a controversial bill that criminalizes the use of the term “Polish Holocaust.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation, which launched the campaign, posted a video on Youtube which sparked outrage in Poland on Wednesday with its provocative use of the  term “Polish Holocaust” to protest the new Polish law.

In the video, men, women and children are seen saying “Polish Holocaust,” defiantly breaking Polish law.

Ridiculing the law, one of the people is seen standing in a bar holding a beverage while saying “I wonder if they have beer in Polish prison.”

A mother sitting on a sofa with two children is seen saying “I’ll miss them when I’m gone,” referencing her supposed pending imprisonment. An elderly man, possibly a Holocaust survivor, is seen saying, “No Polish prison scares me.”

The clip says that “after 3.5 million Jews were murdered in Poland, including hundreds of thousands of children, the Poles have passed a new law.”

“Repeal this disgraceful law now,” the foundation’s clip demanded.

The Boston-based foundation put out the video in reaction to the new Polish law, which criminalizes attributing Holocaust crimes to Poland.

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Polish complicity in the Holocaust

The measure has angered Israel, where it is seen as an attempt to whitewash the actions of Poles who murdered Jews or collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The use of the term “Polish Holocaust” in the video was seen as offensive to many in Poland. Many of Nazi Germany’s death camps, like Auschwitz, were located in German-occupied Poland. Poles had no role in operating them, but did murder Jews during the Holocaust and collaborated with the Nazis.

Princeton University Professor Jan Tomasz Gross, an expert on Polish complicity in the Holocaust, previously stated that Poland’s new stance dissociating itself from the Holocaust is “a step back to the dark ages of anti-Semitism.”

The Polish-born sociologist and historian has stoked controversy in Poland with works that expose dark chapters in a wartime history that Poles are otherwise proud of thanks to a strong resistance by Poles to Nazi Germany.

The latest uproar surrounding Gross began after he asserted in 2015 that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the war. Though the exact numbers are difficult to measure, Gross said evidence indicates that Poles killed up to 30,000 Germans during the war, at most, while they probably killed 70,000 to 90,000 Jews, but possibly more.

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Emotions are running high

“The term ‘Polish Holocaust’ is not accepted by any reasonable person whether Jewish, Polish, Israeli or German,” Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, said. “Emotions are running high and harmful, inaccurate comments from various sides have been published, but this is indefensible,” Ornstein claimed.

The Ruderman Family Foundation released a statement saying that “after a hugely successful campaign that went viral internationally and among American Jews and Israelis who have signed the petition – the Foundation was contacted by the Polish Jewish community and because of their concerns for their safety, we decided to halt the campaign.”

Michal Dworczyk, an aide to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, described the video as an affront to the thousands of Poles who risked their lives during the war to help Jews.

Polish state television’s all-news channel TVP Info reported it as the top story on its website, calling the video “shocking.”

Witold Jurasz, a journalist with the private Polsat broadcaster, called the video “offensive and scandalous,” and said it “spits in the face of every Pole” — even those who, like him, oppose Poland’s Holocaust law.

Poland’s Holocaust law, which takes effect February 28, has already triggered rising anti-Semitism in Poland. In reaction to criticism from Holocaust historians and others, the government said it will be reviewed by Poland’s constitutional court.

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Deputy foreign minister Bartosz Cichocki said Tuesday that no criminal charges would be brought under the law until the court reviews it.