Can the Polish Government Dictate The Holocaust Narrative?
I have met some of the finest People I would ever care to meet as I journeyed to and within Poland. I have seen the work ethic of the Polish People as I have lived among them in the Countries I have resided in. When I have witnessed the abject failure of their Government to support its People, it is a sad indictment of the Polish political system. I have formed an awareness also of the irresolute way in which the Church does little to regain support from its disenfranchised Young. So it comes as no surprise when I am confronted with a Polish Government statement which, as an Historian, I am amazed by. History cannot be detained by the restrictions of Governments who wish to shackle the past to an absurd decree which is designed in response to a phrase. The Holocaust historian cannot therefore become censured by any wish to ensure the past in History is to be contained.
What appears to somehow absolve those whose participation in that past is somewhat criminal, immoral or against humanity, is to distort history all together. Here is where I am at odds as a Holocaust historian because I too have mistakenly used the term for those very Death Camps which Hitler had established on Polish soil. I stand corrected by a Polish student who reminded me that I conveyed the impression that these were Polish Death Camps. I understand the contentious nature of what I have said and accept the fundamental flaw in my statement. But it only reflects upon my own inability to see that failure as merely an error in its conveyance. What I have always expressly intended, in whatever I have to state of relevance to The Holocaust, is always and with equivocation, it is to ensure that Hitler is mentioned as he strides at the forefront of all that transpired with regard to The Jewish People. Whether those Jews were Polish or otherwise or whenever the assault occurred and wherever it took place we see History clearly as:
"..first and foremost perpetrator was Adolf Hitler. ..without him it would have been inconceivable." Raul Hilberg.
It cannot be right then that the Polish Government plans to legislate against any who wish to remember what The Holocaust represents to all of History. For even if any inference might imply that Poland bears a responsibility for the atrocities that were carried out by Hitler or his regime on the national soil of Poland, it will be said because it needs to be heard. This supposed ‘law’ then, laden with a criminal charge, would I am sure expose even those Poles who aided Jews, who were betrayed by their fellow Poles and who suffered the consequences from charging these collaborators with any accusation. As we know, that while not all the victims of Hitler's hatred were Jews, all Jews were the prey of Hitler's hatred. Can it truly be that Poland does actually plan to make it law that implying that Poland or the Polish people had anything to do with any of the crimes against any of the Jewish People or any of these Polish citizens likewise murdered?
Does that intended ‘law’ in fact include an indictment of those making the accusation who are people whose Family, Friends or even acquaintances were killed on Polish soil during this period? How does making it a crime resolve the issues of a History of the very destructive capacity and enterprise of Hitler and his minions who chose to parade their hatred, and not just in Poland, but anywhere and on any one's soil? The rationale clearly escapes me. It is suggested that people could be imprisoned for up to five years for issuance of any truth which might be accusing? When we consider this in relation to the imprisonment of an SS at Belzec, Josef Oberhauser, who was charged as an:
"..Accessory to 300,000 cases and charged with 450,000 crimes of collective murder."
his sentence was a mere 1 month imprisonment for the Slaughter of over 8,300 Jews, we see the Polish law as a cynical endeavour. Can this really be an accurate assessment of what justice in Poland will imply? More than any Nation, Poland suffered by far the worst in terms of those Murdered. For its proximity to Germany and for the wealth of its Jewish presence there, Hitler chose to enact the final resolve of The Final Solution within Poland. In Community after Community, no Jewish life exists. Where Jewish life does persist, this has been as a consequence of a loss of more than 90% of all Jews who had resided within Poland prior to 1939. After Hitler invaded Poland September 1st. 1939, this act of aggression was encountered by a sovereign nation clearly abandoned by Treaty and conscience. Within this nation, a Jewish People was beleaguered, wholly ransacked, isolated, driven to despair and the drive toward extinction was almost complete.
Is this what Poland wishes to protest or protect? For me therefore, it would be a terrible mistake for the Polish Government to attack or threaten to sue People for stating any facts about The Holocaust that were played out on Polish soil. Poland is indeed the graveyard of European Jewry within Europe. That does not mean that 3 Million Poles are not buried alongside so many of these Polish Jews or the Jews of Europe. But this does not mean that the six Death Camps were not established by Hitler not to achieve the most certain results for The Holocaust. Poland was situated where Hitler not only saw an antisemitic host, but the Country was both near and isolated enough to gain a secrecy for what he planned. As to what Hitler saw would suit his own antisemitism, does the Polish Government now not recognise what the example of Jedwabne, Kielce or Sokoly implies, infers and states?
I am equally concerned that Poland sees fit to sue those who would claim any Polish assistance of Hitler during The Holocaust. I am an Author on The Holocaust and have made those assertions in my own work. I would ask the Government of Poland to rethink this position. It is credible for writers to confront the issues that pertain to what happened in The Holocaust. What was allowed to happen in The Holocaust and indeed who allowed that to happen is to be tackled if it is to be understood.
Once more, I am thankful to that Polish Student who can remind us all that it is erroneous to state that there were Polish Death Camps. They were always Hitlerite Death Camps established by Hitler on Polish soil. That is without equivocation. I am obliged to state that and it is clear that the siting of All six Death Camps were Established by Hitler for his own ends but on Polish soil. I would never imply that Poland was anything other than a Victim of what Hitler intended for Her Jewish Citizens. That would be disingenuous and would not be of aid to those who wish to see The Holocaust as it is truthfully known and informed. Lest we forget also, what Hitler intended for the Jews of Poland that same fate would fall upon all Polish citizens once their labour had been exhausted. Maybe the Polish Government needs to take note that some of its own Citizens had an accusing voice for what transpired with relation to Polish Jewry.
"..There is a difference between ..German orchestrated systems of terror against ..Poles and ..Jews. ..Germans want to ruin ..Polish state as a state ..with regard ..Jews ..they want to devastate ..biological substance of ..Jewish nation. ..If ..Germans do not change their method of dealing with ..Jewish population ..if there is no effort at Allied intervention ..whether through reprisals or other action ..barring some unforeseen circumstance ..within a year and a half of ..time I left ..Homeland ..Jewish people of Poland will cease to exist." Jan Karski.
Can we assume that Jan Karski also has an accusation that is levelled at the inactivity of his own Government in saving Jews. Would he be guilty of this newest crime? Also, and in the midst of The Holocaust, can we forget that the example set by Jedwabne, Kielce, Mordy, Piaski or Sokoly was both collaborative and deadly for Polish Jewry? I am merely stating these as a Fact. If I were to pen this to any form of written works, Poland could not then contaminate The Holocaust memory by denying the Fact of what these Perpetrations meant to Jews in Poland. If I were to ask the Polish Government to look to what a Polish Citizen stated he undertook, albeit demanded by the Nazis, this does not deny the basic fact that Belzec was built on behalf of Hitler, but built in part by a Pole, Stanislaw Kozak. Am I wrong or has the Polish Government forgotten that 3,000,000 Jews were its Citizens, Murdered alongside 3,000,000 Poles and all because Adolf Hitler knew he could do so and Hitler did what it was he had always intended!
"..After we had built ..three huts ..Germans dismissed us Poles from work on December 22nd. 1941." Stanislaw Kozak.
Could this mean then that the Polish Government would make what Stanislaw Kozak stated an illegal act. To state that a worker of Poland was clearly involved, and we have no idea as to the manner of duress applied to Kozak, but he took part, assisted in the organisation of the construction at Belzec and was responsible for what then added to the crimes of Hitler’s Reich? Would such an act of implying illegality be made against any Polish Jewish Survivor, or even a non-Survivor who stated that they were affected abjectly by a Polish informer or a Polish collaborator? Do we ignore the evidence of Stefan Kirsz who delivered the Jews in transports all the way to destruction within Belzec? Does not Kirsz’s evidence imply a knowledge of the destruction that had been overlooked and even denied for years. Is his work as a train driver of those Death transports an accusation of his ability to assist the Germans or of his inability to deny the Germans what they demanded?
"..transports ..I drove from Rawa-Ruska to Belzec ..divided into three parts in Belzec ..each ..20 wagons ..rolled onto ..siding. ..emptied of Jews. 3 - 5 minutes ..20 wagons completely emptied of people ..luggage. ..corpses ..also taken out. ..ordered to place ..luggage on one side ..completely undress ..clothes laid on one side ..shoes on ..other ..then they went ..undressed ..pushed into ..gas chambers. ..able to see this ..pretended ..had to shovel coal nearer furnace door. ..Whenever I was in a locomotive near ..extermination camp ..tried to see something more." Stefan Kirsz.
There are literally 1,000s of Books which will have some element of what the Polish Government sees fit to prosecute! There were Millions of Jews, Poles and other people from every corner of Europe who were brought toward the final conflagration within those six Death Camps and within Poland. These Jews from outside Poland were almost unaware of what lay ahead of them, though they knew full well that there existed Extermination Camps and they were in Poland. In any of these cases, will the Polish Government pursue all manner of civil action against the many Writers, far too many of whom are deceased now, but who might have ascertained a guess that resettlement East meant death and destruction within Poland. Will Poland demand to claim compensation from the narrative of a History that not only confronted the Jews of Poland within Poland, but for the Jews of Europe who gave their lives in being confronted by what awaited them in Poland? Outside the Walls of the Ghetto Bialystok, Cracow, Lodz, Lublin or Warsaw, do we ignore what was known by so many who could have alleviated even slightly the plight of those Jews incarcerated prior to their annihilation?
Are we to exonerate the guilty for fear of being subjected to a punishment for stating what is true, what is fact and for what became known to us? I am just back from Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Majdanek and Sobibor. It is incumbent upon me to write of what I have come to know! I have used the good graces of Peter Draigh's Publishing efforts to put my words to paper. I am thankful that the words I use to express my shame at what was allowed to happen to 6,000,000 Jews could so disconcert the sensibility of the Polish Government. My words have not always been received well but that is more the case for stating them than allowing for further hatred to frustrate their effect. Do not think that I see other than Hitler as solely responsible for The Holocaust, in all its manifesting moves. But while we see collaboration of Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and all too many others, we saw too that Jews were Murdered by some anti-Semitic Poles, abandoned by the will of a Catholic Poland and allowed by Hitler to see Poland, rightly or wrongly, as a pliable agent in his own desires for die Endlosung der Judenfrage!