One cannot change history…

The annual Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day is commemorated on January 27. In 1945, it was the day when the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, was liberated. To the surprise of many, recent political views from Poland tried to minimize the significance of this year’s commemoration.

It is well documented that six of the Nazi extermination camps were built in Poland─Auschwitz-Birkenau being the largest and most well-known. In the period of six years, from 1941 to 1945, over 3.0 million Polish Jews were exterminated. About 1.9 million non-Jewish Poles were killed, as well. After seventy-three years since WW2 ended, it is hard to comprehend the death and destruction the war caused all over Europe and beyond.

Right around January 27 this year, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (48) stated that Poland is being wronged by anyone who claims that it played any part in the Holocaust. He continued that the Polish side did not systematically support the Holocaust. He called on the international community to acknowledge this “basic truth.”

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda echoed the same sentiments when he stated that only individuals took actions against Jewish neighbors, but he denied that the state had anything to do with the Jewish persecution and Holocaust.

A few days later, the Polish Parliament passed a Holocaust Law that will outlaw public statements assigning to the Polish nation any responsibility for crimes committed during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland. The use of the expression “Polish death camps” is an example of the kind of statements to be outlawed all over the world.

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has criticized the bill, saying that the law is baseless and that he strongly opposes it. “One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied” stated Netanyahu. President Duda’s top aide did not agree with Netanyahu as he condemned Israel’s reaction to the Polish law!

The current generation of Polish and other national leaders is too far removed from the era of the Holocaust and WW2. For many, facing their nations’ history is too much. Denial of documented events, statistics, photographs and even eye-witness testimonies is the trend of our times. But as Prime Minister Netanyahu said, history cannot be changed nor the Holocaust denied.

It is true that Poland suffered greatly during the Nazi era and then in the hands of the Russians. Close to two million Poles were killed and 1.5 million deported to Germany. As with the Jews, the Nazis wanted to destroy also the Polish history, culture, and institutions. During the war years, individual Poles like Janusz Korczak helped Jews by assisting and hiding them. There are several monuments established in their memory in Israel and other countries. However, this does not change the fact that 90 percent of the Polish Jews were killed in the Holocaust─many with willing support from the Poles. According to Polish Jews, waves of anti-Semitism continued sweeping Poland at least till the 1960s when about 40,000 Jews were forced to flee their homes and move to other countries. (Reference to online news of Arutz Sheva and HaAretz.)