Exaggerated Accusations of Polish Complicity in the Holocaust Won’t Help Combat Warsaw’s Revisionism https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/israel-zionism/2019/05/exaggerated-accusations-of-polish-complicity-in-the-holocaust-wont-help-combat-warsaws-revisionism/

May 17, 2019 | Ben Cohen
About the author: Ben Cohen, a New York-based writer, has contributed essays on anti-Semitism and related issues to Mosaic and other publications.

Last week, the Israeli parliamentarian Yair Lapid—the co-chair of the Blue and White party—gave an interview to a Polish radio station in which he stated that “Poles cooperated in creating and running extermination camps” and, furthermore, that “it is no coincidence that the Nazis created their center of extermination in Poland. They knew that the Polish population would help them.” Ben Cohen argues that such statements, which are not the first from Lapid, only encourage Polish hostility toward frank discussion of the Shoah:

No one denies that there was a powerful anti-Semitic political movement in Poland between World War I and World War II, as was the case in many countries of Europe. But when the Nazis occupied Poland, they diverged from their practice elsewhere on the continent by administering the country directly. As a result, there was no Polish equivalent of Pétain in France or Quisling in Norway. Nor did you find Poles serving in the SS, as was the case with Ukrainians or Lithuanians. Nor was there a Polish pro-Nazi paramilitary, like the Ustaša in Croatia or the Arrow Cross in Hungary. Yet Lapid claims nonetheless that the Polish nation bears the lion’s share of Holocaust guilt.

The idea that the Nazis situated the six main extermination camps in Poland solely because of the country’s native tradition of anti-Semitism is also fanciful and needlessly insulting. The reasoning in Berlin . . . was based far more on [other] considerations. Poland had the largest single population of Jews on the continent, 2.9 million—in other words, about half of the total number of Holocaust victims. By Nazi standards, slaughtering them in their home country was all very efficient. . . .

Meanwhile, the Polish government has attempted to outlaw any discussion of Poles’ collaboration with the Nazis, while far more accurate statements by Israeli politicians have strained relations between the countries:

[Over the past year], the anti-Semitic atmosphere in Poland has worsened. A common theme in the media is the claim that the Jews are invoking the specter of Polish guilt as a prelude to forcing Poland into passing a law giving restitution for the individual assets of Polish Jews that were stolen during the war—an act that Polish nationalists would regard as a treacherous abandonment of the principle that Germany, and Germany alone, was and remains responsible for the fate of the Jews.

[Still], the fact that it is Poland that has chosen to weaponize the Holocaust during its current nationalist resurgence doesn’t license [Jews] to be cavalier with the truth, to make vague or inaccurate statements, or to repeat falsehoods that can be simply disproved.

Read more on JNS: https://www.jns.org/opinion/polish-anti-semitism-is-serious-but-yair-lapid-is-overreaching/

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