Yesterday, 61 of the 120 deputies of the Knesset – the Parliament of Israel -, including related to the government and the opposition, approved a bill to accuse Poland of denying the Holocaust.
The Parliament of Israel joins the campaign against Poland
“Majority of Knesset backs bill acussing Poland of Holocaust denial,” The Jerusalem Post titled yesterday. According to this Israeli newspaper, the new legislation “would make a Polish bill to outlaw talk of Poles’ complicity in the Nazis’ crimes a form of illegal Holocaust denial.” Precisely this reform has been approved at a time of great diplomatic tension between the two countries. Recall that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that Poland intends to “deny the Holocaust,” and deputy Yair Lapid, of the secular party Yesh Atid, claimed that the new Polish law “tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust” and even launched a lie that had already been rejected by the World Center for the Memory of the Holocaust and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance: “There were Polish extermination camps and no law can change that.”
What the media says about the Polish legal reform
On the facts that dismantle the unjust Israeli accusations against Poland, I refer to what I explained in the article that I published this Tuesday. I have already said what the Polish legal reform approved on January 27 was: the law penalizes the attribution to the Polish Nation of the crimes committed by the Third Reich during the Second World War. But how is it possible that so many Israeli politicians distort the meaning of that law, and claim that the reform intends – in reality – to deny that any Pole collaborated with the Nazis? We find the answer in the media. This is what some well-known media have said about the Polish reform:
What the legal reform approved in Poland says literally
We have just seen some examples of very influential media in their respective countries. Reading these means can give the impression that Poland tries to hide the complicity of any Polish citizen with the Nazis, even penalizing the one who affirms it. But does the law really say that? The legal reform in question can be consulted on the website of the Sejm, the Polish Parliament (click here). The part that created this unusual media and political controversy is contained in Chapter 6c, entitled “Protection of the reputation of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Nation”. Article Art. 53o reads as follows:
“To protect the good name of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Nation, the provisions of the Law of April 23, 1964 – Civil Code (Journal of Laws of 2017, points 459, 933 and 1132) on the protection are applied of personal rights. The protection of the good name of the Republic of Poland or of the Polish Nation can be presented by an NGO in the scope of its regulatory tasks.”
In addition, Art. 55a.1 reads as follows:
“Who, in public and against the facts, attributes to the Polish Nation or the Polish State the responsibility or co-responsibility for the Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich defined in art. 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal annexed to the International Agreement on the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis, signed in London on August 8, 1945 (Journal of Laws of 1947, article 367), or by others crimes that constitute crimes against peace, humanity or war crimes or otherwise grossly reduce the responsibility of the true perpetrators of these crimes, will be subject to a fine or imprisonment of up to 3 years. The sentence will be made public.”
So, as we can see, the law refers exclusively to the attribution to the Republic of Poland or to the Polish Nation of Nazi crimes: it does not speak at any time of the individual responsibility of Polish citizens. Some media and politicians are twisting this law, attributing to it things that it does not put, and I am afraid that without having read it.
Denying communist genocide to exculpate communist Jews
But in addition, behind these criticisms of the Polish law, in some media there is a really perverse intentionality. In the aforementioned news of The Jerusalem Post, this newspaper quotes Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter and director of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Zuroff states the following: “Since the Soviet Union crumbled, people have been trying to say communism is the same as Nazism… They want communism to be considered genocide and [some countries] criminalized denying it. And then, if communism is genocide, and there were Jewish communists, then Jews committed genocide. This is their way of undermining the Shoah and their participation in it.” It is curious that the same newspaper accuses Israel of denying the Holocaust, at the same time echoing a person who denies the Communist genocide simply because some Communists were Jews, and because he fears that it could be used against the Jews in general. With that infamous declaration, Zuroff falls in the same error as the anti-Semites, who attribute to an entire people the criticizable behavior of some of their individuals. And that is also what some Israeli politicians are doing against the Poles.
As there were collaborationist Jews, will Zuroff say that there was no Nazi genocide?
But in addition, the argument of Zuroff is very dangerous: and is that there were also Jews who collaborated with the Nazis, for example, the Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst (the Jewish police service of the ghettos), the Trzynastka or Group 13 of Warsaw (also known like the Jewish Gestapo, led by the collaborationist Abraham Gancwajch), the Judenräte (the service of Jewish administration of the ghettos, which in some cases collaborated with the Nazis) and the Żagiew (a group of collaborationist Jews, also created by Gancwajch, whose objective was to infiltrate the Jewish resistance). Those Jewish collaborators, as in the case of the Poles, were a tiny minority. But, following Zuroff’s argument, should the Nazi genocide also be denied simply because some Jews betrayed their brothers and collaborated with the Nazis?
Polish resistance itself punished collaborators with death
Finally, we must remember a fact that many media seem to forget: the Polish resistance itself punished, even with death, the Poles who collaborated with the Nazis (which of course there were). The main organization of the Polish resistance, the Armia Krajowa, had its own police service and courts dedicated to judge and punish those cases of treason. Several historians have also pointed out that most of the cases of collaboration in Poland were between the German ethnic minority, the so-called volksdeutsche, which had privileges granted by the occupiers with respect to the rest of the population. But taking into account the size of that ethnic minority – there were about 2.75 million ethnic Germans in the Poland of 1939 – the cases of collaboration between that part of the population were very small. It is really unfair and defamatory to criminalize a Nation that was a victim of Nazism for what made a tiny minority of its inhabitants, forgetting that hundreds of thousands of Poles fought against Nazism and risked their lives and those of their families to save Jews. Poland deserves to be remembered as a country that never surrendered to Nazism, which took great risks and sacrifices to combat the German occupiers and paid a high price for its heroism: it was the country that lost most of its population in the Second World War (2.9 million Polish Jews and 2.7 million Polish Catholics). Such a country deserves the admiration of the world.
(Photo: Tomasz Radzik)
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