Polish adviser says Israel wants ‘monopoly on the Holocaust’

A senior Polish official claims Israel’s opposition to Poland’s Holocaust Law shows the Jewish state is “clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust.”

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

Israel’s negative reaction to a law criminalizing public statements pointing to Polish complicity in Nazi crimes stems from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust,” an adviser to the Polish president said.

Andrzej Zybertowicz, a Nicolaus Copernicus University sociology professor who also serves as a presidential adviser, called Israel’s opposition to the new law “anti-Polish,” claiming the Jewish state is “clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust.”

“Many Jews engaged in denunciation, collaboration during the war. I think Israel has still not worked it through,” Zybertowicz said in the interview in the Polska-The Times newspaper Friday.

Zybertowicz could not immediately be reached for comment but tweeted a link to the article.

His remarks follow open expressions of anti-Semitism that surfaced online and in some government-controlled media when Israeli officials objected to the law, which outlaws public statements that attribute Nazi crimes to Poland under the German occupation and phrases such as “Polish death camps.”

The ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, appeared to acknowledge the recent outburst of anti-Jewish rhetoric in the country, denouncing anti-Semitism in a speech Saturday night as a “serious illness of the soul” and an “illness of the mind” that must be rejected. At the same time, he said, Poland does not have to agree with “either Jews or Poles” who want to “offend” Poland.

Jews have sometimes been described, often derisively, as having remained passive during the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. Key acts of resistance contradict such allegations, most notably the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Smaller revolts took place in the death camps, including Sobibor and Treblinka, where starving prisoners without weapons faced heavily armed German guards.

Poland’s attempts to whitewash crimes

In Israel, some fear the new law will allow the Warsaw government to cover up the widespread murder of Jews carried out at the hands of individual Poles in Nazi-occupied Poland. The law allows for prison terms of up to three years.

Polish President Andrzej Duda and other government officials said it was needed because Poles sometimes are depicted as collaborators or complicit in the Nazi genocide.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that she won’t get involved or interfere with Poland’s law because “as Germans, we are responsible for the things that happened during the Holocaust.” Merkel said in her weekly podcast that the onus on Germany from the Holocaust is something every German government will have to address.

Duda signed the law on Tuesday but also asked the country’s constitutional court to review it.

Poland’s government went into exile abroad when German forces took over, while an underground army at home resisted the Nazis. After Jews, ethnic Poles made up the largest group of victims at the Nazi-run camps. There were, however, cases of Poles who identified Jews to the Germans or killed them directly.

Princeton University Professor Jan Tomasz Gross, an expert on Polish compliance with the Holocaust, has previously stated that Poland’s new stance on 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 did 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.