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February 21, 2018 1:24 pm

Why We Should Care About Poland’s Holocaust Law

avatar by Zahava Englard Shapiro / JNS.org

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A memorial at the site of the 1941 massacre of Jews in Jedwabne, Poland. Photo: Aw58 via Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – Worldwide efforts are underway to transform the Holocaust into anything other than what it was: the specific targeting of the Jewish people for genocide. This is happening together with widespread attempts at erasing European collaboration with the Nazis, both on the national and local level.

That is why is it so important to denounce Poland’s current law criminalizing any claims of the Polish populations’ collaboration with the Nazis in implementing the “Final Solution” against the Jews. We must also oppose this law because Poland is not alone in its efforts to separate itself from the Nazi atrocities. Other countries in Europe have done the same, and similar laws were passed in Lithuania, Ukraine and Latvia.

This is not a new phenomenon. Revising the facts of the Holocaust began almost immediately after the end of World War II.

In Soviet Holocaust memorials, the victims were typically referred to as “Soviet citizens,” obscuring the fact that Soviet Jews had been singled out for extermination — and that many of the murderers were also Soviet citizens.

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In one of its very first independent actions since declaring independence from the USSR, Lithuania’s parliament formally exonerated several Lithuanian nationalists who had collaborated in the Holocaust, and had been convicted by Soviet military courts after the war, turning them instead into national heroes.

Lithuania, Poland and other Eastern European countries embrace a “double genocide” theory that posits that both the Nazis and Soviets committed genocide. Repressing nationalists apparently also constitutes genocide.

What is important to note, is that we are likewise witnessing actions by world bodies to revise Jewish history, and the Jewish nation’s 4,000-year strong identity to the land of Israel is being disavowed. Backed by the United Nations, the Arab world is appropriating the Jewish people’s indigenous and historical ties to Israel, nullifying our connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. At the same time, they are accusing Israel with the contemptible lie of being a colonialist enterprise.

The Nazis and their European collaborators failed to annihilate the Jewish nation completely, though certainly not from any lack of trying. But the current attempt to corrupt the truth, revise our history and ultimately erase us as a people is proceeding at full speed.

Poland’s latest law has elicited an outrage that is highly emotional; it is also refuted by an enormous amount of eyewitness accounts by Holocaust survivors attesting to the Poles’ complicity and collaboration. Driving the point even further is the fact that the Nazis established — on Polish soil — all the main killing centers (six in total) where nearly all the prisoners were Jews, exclusively for the efficient and quick mass murder of Jews. Why? Because they recognized that it was fertile ground to carry out the genocide of the Jewish people, and were correct in assessing that the surrounding population would not protest.

On the contrary.

Poles stood watch outside the ghettos, waiting to capture any Jews attempting to escape. They went into the forests and countryside hunting down Jews, and turned on their own neighbors who did help the Jews. Yad Vashem counts the righteous Polish gentiles at approximately 6,500 — out of a population of 25 million. Others who hid Jews did so by extorting whatever valuable possessions that Jews may have had. And when the money ran out, they betrayed them to the Nazis. Out of three million Jews in Poland, fewer than 10 percent survived.

However, if one reads any account about wartime Poland in Wikipedia, one would be hard pressed to find any facts on the collaboration of Poles with the Nazis. The wartime population is shockingly presented as having been generally helpful to the Polish Jews, with only a small minority who were not. However, while Wikipedia can be adjusted to the point of distortion, the testimonies of survivors archived at Yad Vashem cannot. The voices of the Holocaust survivors will never be erased.

One may hear Polish declarations attesting to the greater barbarism towards Jews on the part of the Ukrainians, Latvians and Lithuanians. But this isn’t a competition. They were all vile.

In Lithuania, 200,000 Jews, more than 95 percent of Lithuania’s Jewish population, were murdered — a higher percentage of destruction that befell any European country.

In Ukraine, the Einsatzgruppen (German mobile killing units) and local Nazi collaborators murdered 1 million Jews.

In Latvia, the Einsatzgruppen, together with Latvian and Lithuanian auxiliaries, massacred most Latvian Jews.

Unlike Denmark, the nation where massive local resistance to the Nazi occupiers saved the lives of most Danish Jews, in Lithuania, Ukraine, Latvia and Poland, zealous local collaboration hastened the near extermination of the Jews in their territory.

Because Nazi Germany occupied or allied with almost every European country, it depended on other governments at the national level, as well as police forces, railroad personnel and individuals at the local level to help carry out their “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.”

Although there was some level of resistance to Nazi Germany, rarely was it directed at helping the Jews. And when resistance did occur, it was a very small minority. Without widespread collaboration, the murder of 6 million Jews in just four years would not have been possible.

What did make it possible was a climate of Jew-hatred in Europe almost 2,000 years strong. Europeans will have to work very hard indeed to whitewash their long history of Jew-hatred, and their wicked treatment of the Jewish people. Try as they might, we, the Jewish nation, will never forget.

So why should we care about the new Polish law? Because the voices of all our murdered people command it. And our future demands it.

Zahava Englard Shapiro is an Israeli-based author and writes articles on Israel for several online publications. This article originally appeared in Mida and was provided exclusively to JNS.

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