Fri Sep 09, 2016 11:23 am Poland's Crime Against History - By Shlomo Avineri
Poland’s Crime Against History
By Shlomo Avineri
September 7, 2016
JERUSALEM – My parents and I arrived in Tel Aviv a few months before World War II began. The rest of our extended family – three of my grandparents, my mother’s seven siblings, and my five cousins – remained in Poland. They were all murdered in the Holocaust.
I have visited Poland many times, always accompanied by the presence of the Jewish absence. Books and articles of mine have been translated into Polish. I have lectured at the University of Warsaw and Krakow’s Jagiellonian University. I was recently elected an external member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. Though my knowledge of the Polish language is scant, the country’s history and culture are not foreign to me.
For these reasons, I recognize why Poland’s government recently introduced legislation on historical matters. But I am also furious.
The Poles understandably view themselves primarily as victims of the Nazis. No country in occupied Europe suffered similarly. It was the only country that, under German occupation, had its government institutions liquidated, its army disbanded, its schools and universities closed. Even its name was wiped off the map. In a replay of the eighteenth-century partitions of Poland by Russia and Prussia, the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact led to the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in the wake of the German invasion. No trace of Polish authority remained.
The total destruction of the Polish state and its institutions made Poland an ideal location for the German extermination camps, in which six million Polish citizens – three million Jews and three million ethnic Poles – were murdered. Everywhere else in German-controlled Europe, the Nazis had to deal, sometimes in an extremely complicated way, with local governments, if only for tactical reasons.
This is why Poland is right to insist that the camps not be called “Polish extermination camps” (as even US President Barack Obama once mistakenly referred to them). They were German camps in occupied Poland. . . . [More]