MOL organizers denounce new Polish law that outlaws linking Poland to Holocaust crimes, but the group still plans to send 12,000 Jewish youth to visit the Auschwitz death camp on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
By Steve Leibowitz
The International March of the Living has brought more than 250,000 people to visit Nazi concentration camps in Poland, and the group says it will not cancel its 2018 trip, despite its opposition to a new Polish law criminalizing use of the words “Polish concentration camps” and similar statements linking Poland to the heinous crimes against Jews in World War II.
In a statement, March of the Living said, “Like in years before, more than 12,000 participants, Jews and non-Jews alike, including thousands of non-Jewish Polish students, and students from other nations, will take part in the passing the torch of memory from survivors to the next generation. On each trip, the survivors share their precious stories in the very places they transpired, with their students who commit to becoming the bearers of their memories.”
“The Polish law is very troublesome and opens up a Pandora’s Box that gives legitimacy to rampant anti-Semitism and hate speech. But the March of Living must go on because we are committed to teaching the history of the Jewish people to our young people and that includes the history of the Holocaust in the place where it took place. We believe it is our sacred responsibility to carry the torch of Holocaust memory. Now, as much as ever, we believe our mission is of the utmost importance,” MOL President Phyllis Greenberg Heideman told World Israel News (WIN).
“We are hopeful that the governments of Israel and Poland will find a way to solve the current impasse, so that we can continue with our vital educational activities, teaching the history and lessons of the Shoah [Holocaust], and thereby helping to build a more tolerant and compassionate world for all members of the human family,” Heideman said.
Betty Ahrenberg of the World Jewish Congress told WIN, “The Polish government has made a big mistake on this. There was a failure to read and understand history and the feelings of the Jewish people and of Israel. They are trying to revise history and in doing so raised a great deal of resentment. I hope the Polish government can somehow walk it back.”
Nonetheless, Ahrenberg supports the March of the Living trip, saying, “It’s and educational tool and we must continue visiting the camps.”
‘Not one Jewish adult or youth should visit Poland’
Israeli publisher Ilan Greenfield is calling for a halt to all trips to Poland. “As a son of a survivor from Auschwitz, and as part of the Jewish people who lost millions of people in Poland, I believe that the March of the Living should be halted at once,” he told WIN. “Not one Jewish adult or youth should visit Poland. They murdered Jews and their prime minister gets up there and has the chutzpah to say there were Jewish perpetrators. This cannot pass quietly. Israel should call home its ambassador. We have our pride and we know the truth. The Polish people did collaborate, and Polish people did murder Jews. There is no other way of saying it.”
The controversial new law, signed by Poland’s president earlier this month, imposes prison sentences of up to three years on people convicted of using the phrase “Polish death camps” or who blame Poland for Nazi crimes. Israel and the United States have condemned the law.