The Legacy of Poland’s Post-War Holocaust Justice

April 19 2021

In the ten years following the end of World War II, special Polish courts tried over 30,000 suspected collaborators with the Nazis. Because of the timing of the decree creating these courts, these proceedings are known as the August trials, which is also the title of a new book about them by Andrew Kornbluth. Konstanty Gebert writes in his review:

Poland was the only country in Nazi-occupied Europe not to have had a Quisling administration collaborating with the occupiers: the Germans, simultaneously determined to crush the country’s national will and contemptuous of Polish “sub-humans,” refused to allow one to be set up. Yet the country had no shortage of individual and institutional collaborators against whom post-war charges could be brought. Overall, those accused in the August trials were found guilty in approximately half of the cases. In cases where the victims happened to be Jewish, though, that rate fell to 14 percent. This was true even though crimes against Jews had been mostly more serious than those against non-Jews.

Kornbluth is excellent in dissecting the complex dynamics among the Soviet-imposed post-war regime, the judiciary (largely composed of pre-war and anti-Communist judges), and the post-war Polish population. Contrary to accepted myths, he does not find that the judiciary was necessarily following the Soviet-backed Communist regime’s orders.

Jewish victims often could not testify, for they were either dead or had fled, while those who did survive and remained were most often too terrified to testify against Poles. Even Poles who had saved Jews asked them after the war to keep this heroism secret, out of fear of retaliation.

Kornbluth shows brilliantly how, when those actually found guilty and sentenced for crimes against Jews challenged the verdicts, the description of facts would be totally changed between the original trial and the appeals trial, exonerating the perpetrators and strengthening the legend of Polish innocence. Sentences were reduced, amnesties applied. In a final, particularly obscene gesture, Polish courts after 1989 rehabilitated some perpetrators of crimes against Jews, designating those crimes as “acts done in the defense of Poland’s independence.”

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Communism, Holocaust, Poland

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia