Do the Poles and Eastern Europeans suffer from ‘Holocaust envy’?

Israeli Holocaust expert says that Eastern European countries want to equate their suffering with that of the Jews.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

Former Polish Prime Minister and current President of the EU Donald Tusk says that the new law denying Polish complicity in the Holocaust is ruining the country’s international standing.

Tusk is warning his country against what he called “anti-Semitic excesses” and says that “negative opinions toward Warsaw are “turning into a tsunami.” He told current Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that “the situation is very serious, it negatively impacts Polish interests, the reputation of Poland and Poland’s standing in the world.”

As a result of the backlash, Poland reportedly plans to send a delegation to Israel to discuss the crisis, but no solution is in sight, and the bill is due to become law on March 1. The legislation prescribes prison time for using phrases such as “Polish death camps” to refer to the camps which Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.

‘Media is making things worse’

Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told World Israel News (WIN), “The media is making things worse. They are making claims and then the politicians react. For example, the Poles never said they would freeze the law but indicated they would not enforce it. Also this current report about a Polish delegation visiting. I know nothing about it. For sure the two sides need to work on the issue in a serious way and they need to do so away from the spotlight.”

Former Italian parliament member and Holocaust expert Fiamma Nirenstein told WIN, “I dare argue that they are very surprised at what is happening to them because of this stupid law.” Nirenstein rejects the notion of modern day anti-Semitism being behind the Polish move. ”It’s driven by a nationalist and populist point of view, and not enmity toward the Jews. They remain friendly toward Israel, but they stick to this ridiculous and historically wrong idea that Poles were victims of the Nazi occupation and did not take part in the murder of substantial numbers of Jews,” she said.

According to Nirenstein, “Poland wants to step back from the decision but it’s hard for them. They realize that they have lost friends in Israel and are losing friends in Europe. We want them as a friend, but we also insist on the historical truth. What I suggest is that Israel and Poland bring together their top Holocaust experts and have a conference to adopt joint positions.”

Dr. Ephraim Zuroff from the Wiesenthal Center told WIN, “The Polish government is trying to whitewash the crimes of Polish citizens during the holocaust. Poles murdered as many as 200,000 Jews and Israel must defend an accurate narrative of the Holocaust. There was no Polish state during the Holocaust because they were occupied by Germany. They are right to oppose calling the death camps Polish.” 

“It’s very important to meet the Poles and explain our objections to them and to try to convince them that amendments are needed to their law. The backlash from this law has resulted in an outburst of anti-Semitism and the Jewish community feels threatened. We must put the genie back in the bottle.”

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“The issue with Poland is the tip of a much larger iceberg that exists all over Eastern Europe. All of the post-communist countries want to change the narrative. I am talking about Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine where they all have ‘Holocaust envy.’ 

“In other words they have seen what we Jews have been able to do in terms of commemorating the Holocaust. We get compensation and world sensitivity and they are jealous. They seriously suffered under communism but got nothing. 

“There have been no reparations or restitution for Communism. They are not justified when they try to claim that what happened to them is like the Holocaust,” said Zuroff.

According to Zuroff Israel has to be more pro-active. “Unfortunately Israel is doing nothing about the Holocaust revisionism. We want the friendship of these countries and they are willing to give it as long as we do not emphasize their role as Nazi collaborators. They do want to change the narrative to say that their suffering at the hands of the Nazis and the communists was as bad as the Holocaust. The truth is that they were nothing like the Holocaust.”