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COLUMN: Holocaust bill wrongly absolves Polish involvement



This week, Polish president Andrzej Duda signed a bill that would prevent anyone from speaking in an inflammatory way about Poland’s involvement in the Holocaust. The bill specifically targets people who might imply Polish complicity in Nazi Germany's crimes. The punishment can be a fine or serving time up to three years.

There has been a recent anxiety about the term “Polish death camps” when referring to concentration camps that were, in fact, located in Poland. The problem people see with this is that by saying “Polish Death Camps,” the Polish believe people are implying they themselves set up their death camps, not that they were placed in Poland. 

The Israeli foreign ministry summoned the charge d'affaires for Poland's embassy in Israel, Piotr Kozlowski, for a discussion and a hope at establishing what exactly this bill would do. Israel fears that the ban speaking about “Polish Death Camps” and Poland’s complicity in the Holocaust could produce a sort of erasure and denial of history. 

I have to say I am on Israel’s side on this issue. Expecting people to speak about a very disturbing history without speaking about all parts is in some way denying and erasing what really happened. An innumerable amount of people suffered during the Holocaust, but it is impossible to say that no Polish people were involved in a negative way. That would be like saying there were Nazi SS soldiers who are blame-free. 

President Duda has acknowledged that Poland is not exempt from blame, but is now supporting a bill that refuses to accept any. There were cases where Jewish families were reported by their Polish neighbors. Before World War II, Polish politicians advocated for the mass emigration of Polish Jews. There was such a thing as the Polish Blue Police who enforced Nazi Germany ideas on Jewish citizens in the various ghettos of the country.

After World War II ended, the anti-Semitism in Poland returned and is still in place today. 

I understand where Israel takes issue with this bill because it seems like Poland is trying to paint their country and total populace as a victim, when in fact, there is a huge fascist uprising occurring in the country. 

On Poland’s Independence Day last November, there was a fascist group marching through the streets of Warsaw. Warsaw suffered at the hands of fascist Nazis during World War II and it is so heartbreaking to know it may go through more suffering from a current fascist party. 

Instead of celebrating Poland’s hard-earned independence, fascists and nationalists took this as the opportunity to spread their hate and chant phrases like “Clean Blood,” “Europe Will Be White” and “Refugees get out”.

Israel voicing their concerns received comments that the Israeli response to the bill “makes it hard for me to look at Jews with sympathy and kindness."

It deeply saddens me to see a country want to denounce all agency in a situation, expect to be viewed solely as a victim, receive concerns from a location highly populated with Jewish citizens and then say those concerns make them feel less sympathetic toward Jewish people — the victims of the Holocaust.

The history of the Holocaust is unsettling and complex, but it must be understood for everything it entails. We cannot uphold the promise of never letting this happen again if we are to erase parts of its history. Even if this is considered a small part of what happened, it still happened and it cannot be criminalized to speak about. 

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