There is a controversy still brewing regarding the WWII Auschwitz concentration camp which was located in Poland. Over 1 million Jews were killed there. As such, it will remain forever a name to be loathed in Jewish minds for generations to come. Now, nearly 75 years after its liberation by Soviet forces, Polish authorities are attempting to claim the camp was a German one merely located on Polish soil and to prove its point, its Parliament passed legislation that rejects the phrase, “Polish death camps” to describe Auschwitz and would make it illegal to describe Nazi death camps as “Polish.” They went so far as to legalizing fines and a maximum prison sentence of up to three years for anyone who refers to deaths camps built and functioning on Polish soil as being Polish. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will have none of that in his statement, “The law is baseless. I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied.” We agree.
Poland’s current government is trying re-educate the world regarding the German-Polish cooperation in exterminating Jews. Its official stance is that all Poles were heroes during the war. This is a sore point among Poles who also suffered grievously under the Nazi occupation. Their society has seriously avoided discussing the killing of Jews by civilians or of their nationally recognized history of anti-Semitism. What Jewish refugee from that land did not carry with him or her stories of pogroms carried out by Polish civilians against their Jewish neighbors? Or their complicity in outing Jews to the Nazis? In 1941, Polish civilians in the city of Jedwabne, with the permission of their German occupiers, attacked and slaughtered local Jews.
According to Jan Gross’ book, “Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” about half of the city’s Catholic community participated in torturing 1,600 Jews, then corralling them into a barn, which was then set ablaze. Even after the war this disease still permeated the land and made it unsafe sadly, for those few Jews who survived the Holocaust. Kielce, a Polish city of over 50,000 was the scene of the murder of 70 Jews by civilians and police in 1946, one year after the end of the war. How can these evil deeds be erased? And why should they be? History is history. We see how vehemently our own nation’s Blacks strive to keep the memory of slavery alive by refusing to compromise with those who wish to deny and forget. Why should we Jews be any different and permit the crimes of the Holocaust to be reduced and shoved aside to cleanse the soul of the Polish nation? Let’s go on living side by side with one another but just as well, let’s face the facts, both good and bad about history.