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February 25, 2018 9:14 am

Why Would Any Jews Spend Money in Poland?

avatar by Zev Friedman

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

Approximately three million Jews — 90% of Polish Jewry — were murdered during World War II on Polish soil.

The majority of them perished in concentration and death camps, such as Auschwitz, Sobibor, Majdanek, Chelmno, Plaszow, Belzec and Treblinka. Others were murdered in killing pits, after having dug their own graves.

In addition to Polish Jews, more than 500,000 other Jews were killed in these death and concentration camps. Many believe that the major killing camps were specifically located in Poland — because it was fertile ground for antisemitism, and it was thought that the murder of Jews would be readily accepted there.

In sharp contrast, look at Bulgaria. Dimitar Peshev, a former Bulgarian minister of justice, was recognized as righteous among the nations for his role in blocking the deportation of 48,000 Bulgarian Jews — saving them from certain death.

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Recently, the Polish government passed a law stating that “whoever accuses publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the third German Reich shall be subject to a fine or penalty of imprisonment up to three years.”

Israel, the United States, France and other nations have characterized this law as a sordid attempt to whitewash the Holocaust — and rewrite European and Polish history.

Poland alleges that Poles were not involved in the persecution and killing of Jews during World War II. However, it has yet to explain the following inconvenient truths:

1. Prior to World War II, thousands of Polish Jews had taken up temporary residence in Germany and Austria. Many of these Jews wanted to return to their homes and families in Poland. In order to prevent the Jews from coming back, however, the Polish government passed a law that revoked the citizenship of people who did not renew their passports in 1938.

The New York Times reported that this law specifically targeted the Jewish population, and was “designed mainly to prevent their return.” Approximately 50,000 Jews were impacted by this antisemitic law. And we know the fate of the Jews that became trapped in the hands of the Germans.

2. In July 1941, the Polish residents of the town of Jedwabne, turned on their Jewish neighbors — massacring 1,500 Jews, including those that they herded into a barn and burned alive. There are countless other stories with very similar circumstances.

3. According to Jan Gross, professor of history at Princeton University, Polish citizens during World War II were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews — and some accounts put this number at over 100,000.

4. Despite the fact that some Jews were saved by Poles (who often received money in return for safekeeping), there were many incidents where the Polish farmers took the money and murdered their “guests.” In countless other cases, the Polish posed as saviors — then turned Jews over to the Nazis.

5. Some of the few Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust returned to their hometowns to look for any surviving relatives. On July 4, 1946, Polish antisemites massacred over 40 survivors of concentration camps who had returned to the city of Kielce. There were other examples of this phenomenon throughout Poland.

6. Poland appropriated the property of Jewish families that were persecuted during the Holocaust. According to a report issued by the Polish government in 2012, Poland has over $10 billion of Jewish property in its hands. By all accounts, they have refused to return the stolen property to the rightful heirs.

Despite all of the above, the current Polish government has passed legislation to outlaw anyone from speaking out about the collaboration of Poles in the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. The implications of this law are clear. If one were to express the opinion of Polish complicity during World War II, that individual will be subject to a three-year jail sentence.

We, as a Jewish community, must protest this injustice.

More than 250,000 people have participated in the March of the Living — visiting concentration camps in Poland, and later traveling to Israel. Undoubtedly, this is an emotional and memorable experience. But it also provides the Polish government with millions of tourist dollars. Money is spent on airfare, hotels, food, tour guides, buses, etc.

In light of Polish antisemitism — past and present — and in light of Poland’s attempt to whitewash the Holocaust and change history, why are Jewish tours promoting trips to Poland? Just last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused the Jews of being perpetrators of the Holocaust.

The Czech Republic, which is currently a staunch supporter of Israel, would be an ideal alternative for the March of the Living. Participants could be taken to Theresienstadt. Approximately 33,000 Jews were murdered there, and 100,000 were deported from there to Auschwitz and other killing camps. Participants can also see the ancient Pinkas synagogue in Prague, which is inscribed with the names of 80,000 Jews who died in the Holocaust. The Charles Bridge — which contains a crucifix with Hebrew inscriptions — is also an important historical reminder of antisemitism in Europe.

Efforts by governments around the world to push Poland to change its despicable law will fall on deaf ears, so as long as Jews continue to visit their country. Poland has over $10 billion in Jewish money — why give them another zloty?

Rabbi Zev Friedman is the rosh mesivta, dean of Rambam Mesivta for Boys and Shalhevet High School for Girls.

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  • jola

    Well, I am Pole and my husband’s family lost property in Milno near Tarnopol. After 1945 this territory became part of Soviet Union. We have all of the documents and zero chance to get any recovery from Russian, Ukrainian or Polish governments.
    Please stop making claims that everything is designed against Polish-Jews population. Polish people are facing similar problems. We just can’t claim that this is anti-semitism.

    • Ivan Cohen

      No claim was made that this was specifically designed against Polish Jews.
      I have absolutely no idea of the situation as regards other sectors of the population.
      The “inspiration” for the comment was the estimated value of property previously owned by Polish Jews. However, the Jews of Poland might be regarded as a special case as virtually the entire population was eliminated during WW2. It was not a case of nationalisation by a conquering army.
      It might be interesting to know that when we visited the property concerned it was merely to see where our ancestors came from. We made no representations to the current owners that we had any rights to or claims against the property. We were told that the daughter of the German officer who had somehow obtained title to this property until the Soviet occupation had been a recent visitor and claimed that she was the rightful owner. There is a Yiddish word for this . . . chutzpah!
      So, we still believe we have a right to some compensation, not because we are Jewish but because legitimate title to the property belongs to the heirs – be they Jewish, Catholic, Buddist, Hindu etc.

  • Jurek Kawalek

    The reason is given by the Jewish grandma in the movie Defamation: 05:00

  • Jurek Kawalek

    Dear Mr.

    Few answer for you letter:

    1. Poland was a young state with a lot of minorities which a) were not very keen to
    support the new state b) were suspected of being disloyal to new state. (Confirmed
    later in all cases with exception of 150.00 Jewish soldier in Polish army
    respect!) Goebbels commented in Spring 1938 some opportunities for war
    against Poland and stated that Polish state with 40 million contains 8
    Millions of Ukrainians, 4 Millions (?) Jews and many others he took under
    account in Poland there left about 18 Millions native Poles against his 80
    Millions Nation of Germans. So no any chance! Poland took in 30ies about
    200-300 T. of Jewish refugees from Soviet Union over and all of them got
    Polish citizenship on order of Pilsudski stating Poland can’t cope with so many
    foreigners on its territory. Finally if this group could imagine a better place
    for them in Europe they would probably go there. But “Polin”
    was the Promised Land for them because of antisemitism?

    2. if you ask any historian ( not sociologist as Mr. Gross) about Jedwabne they can state
    as follows. “There was an incident in Jedwabne! There were Jews murdered.
    Jedwabne was at this time under German occupations and the number of murdered
    Jews is not known!” The first step in clearing an crime is an exhumation
    and research on victims at least to see the dynamic of the crime showing how it
    was committed. Poland wanted exhumation in 2001. The Jewish activist
    including the Polish National Rabi Mr. Schudrich have presented documents
    to the current Juristic Minister that it is not allowed by Jewish religion to
    make exhumation (???) and it was stopped after few days and the partly research
    is not public till today! Therefore Poles demand exhumations in Jedwabne to
    know what happened there in reality and not only relay on Gross book without
    any significant proofs. If you have Polish citizenship you can support it
    with your voting:

    3. Jan T. Gross is an sociologist who keeps the job position of Professor of
    History. Any other chemist, mathematician or geologist with this Job
    on this faculty gets title ” Professor of History” what don’t make
    him automatically specialist in this area. Let’s consider two numbers.
    Jewish Holocaust organization ( supported by Polish historian Grabowski)
    mentioned that about 200.000 Jews were killed by Poles. A statistical
    calculation stating that this number “disappeared / run away”
    from different places. If they fled from ghettos or from death camps thy could
    only met Poles outside = they were for sure killed by them. An very scientific
    approach! If you take the second number
    that 100.000 Poles were involved in murdering so in average we have 1 murder
    per two victims. An very ineffective way for mass killings. And if the number
    is reduced by historical research that could be two Poles were necessary to
    kill one Jews…I don’t like this matchings but is the same as statement “if they
    run away than they are murdered” don’t like too.

    4. Despite= what you mean despite? There was no any possibility to survive for Jews in
    Poland without their Polish help.( Quote: No Jew in occupied Poland could survive without
    the help of Poles, none! It was impossible! From the end of 1941 to 1945, it
    was not possible – emphasizes Władysław Teofil Bartoszewski, son of Władysław
    Bartoszewski. ( Secondly. If you hid somebody it causes
    cost. You notice it already with some guest for few days and the same in war
    time. Food was not for free in the war time! If you use word “countless” is
    shows no any scientific approach. ( “few” = as low number as possible, “countless” as big number as possible a great
    manipulation! ) So if you consider that hiding Jews were risky ( under death
    punishment including all family members- so let ask Jewish neighbor how many
    family member they would risk to rescue one gentile?) and that
    there was need to transfer people from one to other family/ place to not
    be at sight with more food and excrement
    as well other wastes caused so the “few”
    cases only registered by Yad
    Vashem should be multiplied by many other before involved it this. But the
    recognition for “Righteous” title is allowed only to last chain of help. Why?

    5. Well in this times many cities were destroyed almost fully so everybody looked for the survivors of their families of 3
    Millions of ethnic Poles as well of ethnic Polish Jews , you write as if
    there were only Jewish problem. ( manipulation!) Polish homes stay untouched ?

    Kielce massacre were surveilled, promoted and orchestrated by state apparatus. Who run
    state apparatus at these times? In Public
    Security area about 50-80% of highest ranked officers were of non-Catholic
    religion. If at this time 1945-1947 about 60.000 polish patriots were killed by
    communist oppressors how it was possible to organize it as spontaneous
    reaction? In this time Soviets supported
    Israel. To move Jews living in Poland after WWII the “Polish” communist made an
    support to Israel orchestrating programs to motivate them to go to Israel to
    build the bright future of this country. –The first wave of emigrations caused
    “polish” antisemitism allegations however the Public Security was run by
    non-Catholic officers, sample: The second wave was after six- days-war in 60ties and already after
    Israel’s strategical separation from Soviets to USA. In internal reports Jewish
    communist supported Israel and emphasized their sympathy towards the country
    which was in opposition to Egypt- the Soviets ally in this time. The ethnic Polish communist started to get rid of this disloyal and potential dangerous part to the communist regime. If you hear complains of representatives of
    the second wave ask them what role they played in the oppressive state
    apparatus. Of course the publicized reason was the antisemitism in other case they
    had to admit their crimes on Poles in the period after War. Sample on Jews left: ;
    and sample on Jew who emigrated:

    6. During the holocaust the Polish citizens
    were persecuted by Germans under German occupations. The Polish citizens of
    Polish and Jewish ethnicity were murdered by Germans. If the Polish citizens
    died without heirs the property belongs to the state ( no matter which
    ethnicity even it was a German , French, Ukrainian or Jew. It is a worldwide
    common legal solutions for this problems. If there are some heir the property
    will be given back. And it happens day by day in Poland. So if you mean it in
    moral perspective pleaser remember, Jews murdered in Poland were murdered by
    Germans. Even if the traitor were of Polish ethnicity still murders were
    Germans and the victims the Jew and Polish hiding family. For Polish nation
    they were traitors! No one will be
    persecuted by this law if they blame Poles for crimes committed on Jews. But
    the same as Jews don’t accept to be blamed as nation to participate in
    Holocaust with Judenrat and Ghettopolizei ( ) the same Polish nations don’t want to be accused in same way. Don’t spread lies please! The public hucpa
    organized by Jewish Holocaust activists has as aim “humiliation of Polish nation” to cause the
    worldwide press to pay the reparation to Jewish Holocaust activist and to
    support further steps with the bill 447-
    ( No more no less. According to this
    “ repressive“ Polish bill if you lie and write it in an scientific work or do
    any art performance you are still not accused by this bill. But if you spread
    this lie in public means you could be blamed and it will be for any foreigner
    without any consequence. Because it is Polish and not USA, German or Israel
    law. Quote: “More than 3 million Jews died in Poland and Poles will not be the
    heirs of Polish Jews, we will never allow it, we will harass them as long as
    Poland will freeze. If Poland does not satisfy Jewish demands, it will be
    publicly humiliated and attacked on international forum. ”
    Israel Singer April 19, 1996. at the World Jewish Congress.

    Regards: “Money is spent on airfare, hotels, food, tour guides, buses, etc.”

    1. Museum of History of Polish Jews. Cost 320 millions PLN. ( plus
    running cost every year subsidized by Polish government. ( by the way Poles
    don’t possess till today a Museum of Polish History- no money for that.)

    2. 100 Millions PLN for revival of
    Jewish cemeteries:
    if you ask the rich Jewish society in USA for support it with own money
    no any reactions. Why we Poles should care for the cemeteries if own ethnic
    brothers do not do that? So thy want their heir but not care for their memory?

    regular payments as retirements found to Jewish community.

    So at least now one wants to hear the victims of this history. The
    murdered Jews. Ant they left a lot of
    the memories as victims of this immoral time. It as a bad translation but
    everybody is invited to correct it because there is no any translation to find
    from Polish into Hebrew or English which I know. Polish version below.

    Icchak Kacnelson, “About my pain”

    I am the one who saw it, who was watching closely, Like children, wives and husbands,
    and my old silver haired Like stones and stacks on the torturer’s carts he
    flung And he hit without a shadow of mercy, he insulted with inhuman words. I
    looked at it from behind the window, I saw the band’s murderers – Oh, God, I’ve
    seen beating and beaten who go to death … And I broke my hands in shame …
    of shame and disgrace – Jews were murdered with the hands of Jews – helpless

    Traitors who ran across the empty street in
    shining shoes As with the swastika on the caps – with David’s shield, they went
    furious With their cricked mouths by alien words, arrogant and wild, Who dumped
    us from the stairs that dragged us out of the houses. Who pulled out the doors
    from the doorposts, broke in by violence, rioters, With a club raised to the
    blow – to homes taken over by fear. They beat us, they banned old people, they
    banned our youngest Somewhere on the terrified streets. And they spit straight
    into God’s face. They found us in wardrobes and pulled out from under the beds,
    And they cursed: “Go to hell, to Umschlag ramp, there is your place!”
    All of us got out of flats, then they searched for them longer, To take the
    last clothes, a piece of bread and porridge.

    And on the street – go crazy! Look and stain it, because here A dead street, became a one
    cry and a one terror – From the end to the end, empty and full like never
    before – Cars! And from despair, from shouting, it’s hard to drive cars … In
    them, Jews! They are tearing their hairs on heads and wrenching their hands.
    Some are silent – their silence is louder even more as cry. They look … Their
    eyes … Is it awake? Maybe a bad dream and nothing more? With them, the Jewish
    police – cruel and wild ruffians! And from the side – the German with a light
    smile looks at them, The German stopped at a distance and looks – he does not
    interfere, He is causing death for my Jews with Jewish hands!

    Yitzhak. Kacenelson, A Song about the Murdered Jewish People, Warsaw 1982, p. 23.

    Icchak Kacenelson (1886-1944) – an outstanding
    poet, playwright, translator of Jewish and Hebrew. In the Warsaw ghetto, he
    conducted secret cultural and cultural activities. Taken away in April 1943 to
    a concentration camp; murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.

  • Pole77

    Shame on Fred.

  • rosaliecesar

    Indeed ,if Jews are not welcomed in Poland ,i think Israel should stop sending those hundreds of Israeli kids on “memory trips” and Israel should stop spending millions which benefit to Polish EconomyNow i don’t see how “the march of the Living” could be held in Poland.Why not organise it in Czech Republic or Germany ?
    There is too much anti semitism right now in Poland, i believe and the comments posted by some Poles regarding the Holocaust Law, speak for themselves (and give an accurate image of Poland regarding xenophoby anf hatred ).Sad.

  • Sue

    I think Michal you will find that we – us Poles/Polonians – have been moved to the Axis Side now. As I say somewhere above, it is at least a powerful lesson in the wisdom of staying neutral and staying out of it. The countries that managed to stay neutral during WW2 did not suffer as Poland did, and don’t get blamed for anything either.

    I would rather take a positive from this, as i don’t want to become bitter and angry myself.

    By the way, does anyone know when the countries that actually were in the Axis (in the Original Version of WW2) were sent down the Memory Hole? And let me quickly say that I’m not wanting them dragged out again and vilified. Isn’t the truth about WW2 that both sides did some terrible ungodly things? I am just wondering when it happened.

  • Sue

    Hello Jonas – yes, us Poles/Polonians have been the baddies of WW2 for a long time now – a chillingly long time. Would it be fair to say from the moment WW2 ended, when the Polish army who fought on the Allied Side, were re-designated “fascist thugs” and barred from the Victory Parade?

    Peter Godwin writes movingly about it in his wonderful “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun”. His father – Polish-Jewish – and mine – Polish-Catholic – both fought in the Polish Army, on the Allied Side. And both suffered the same brutal betrayal.

    Peter writes:

    “In the summer of 1946, the huge victory parade takes place down the
    Mall in London. Two million onlookers cheer wildly as King George V1
    takes the salute from Allied soldiers of dozens of nations. In the
    skies overhead there is a massive fly-past. but though they are the
    fourth biggest Allied army, no Polish forces march that day. The new
    Warsaw regime, at Stalin’s insistence, ignores its British invitation
    and stays away. And the Free Poles have not been invited. Anyway,
    they have nothing to celebrate. While everyone else is jubilant, many
    of them watch the victory parade in tears.

    “The new Polish government said we were traitors, just a bunch of
    fascist thugs, and I realized I would never be able to go home to
    Poland”. says my father. “And Cania, who had stayed behind with our
    unit in Germany, after I’d been sent back for officer training,
    realized the same thing. He couldn’t bear it. He walked out of his
    tent one evening and shot himself”.”

    The day before the war ended, they were “our gallant allies the Poles”, The day after, at Stalin’s insistence, they were “fascist thugs”.

    And we have been “untered” ever since by the most powerful media and academe in the world.

    What is the lesson here? Surely it underlines the wisdom of staying neutral and staying out of it? The countries that managed to do so during WW2 did not suffer as Poland did, nor do they come in for all this untering.

  • Pole77

    Dr Goska has interviewed American Jews about their impressions about Poland (I would never visit Poland) and Germany or Austria (nice, colorful place, I had fun there).

  • Pole77

    Israeli teenagers are being terrorised during their visits to Poland by their Israeli guards, who tell them lies about alleged dangers.They don’t meet Polish teenagers. Some Israelis are told that Poland is a nasty place of Shoah and later visit Berlin to have fun, close to former RSHA building or other such institutions.

  • Schlomo

    The law introduced in Poland is needed, so people like the author of the article could be held responsible for spreading lies, untruths and misguiding others. The article itself is an act of hatred towards Poland and the Polish nation, based on unfounded claims and allegations and should fall under ‘hate speech crime’. It is going to be reported to the police of the country where it was published as well as the United Kingdom courts of justice.

  • defender

    “Industry of the Holocaust”. Norman Finkelstein: How to repel attacks on Poland.
    read what is for you!! prepere yourself.

  • franko

    We do not want your money, please stay at home or go somewhere else