Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Polish lawmakers voted last Friday for a bill that would fine or jail people who speak of Polish collaboration or responsibility for atrocities committed on Polish soil during World War II. The law still needs final approval from the Polish Senate and the country’s president.
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education & Tolerance, Florida Holocaust Museum and Holocaust Museum Houston, are deeply alarmed by the proposed Polish law which makes it a criminal offense to mention Polish complicity in crimes committed during the Holocaust.
The term “Polish death camps,” also outlawed in the legislation, is, in fact, a historical misrepresentation – the death camps were established in Nazi-occupied Poland by the Nazi regime.
But the effort to sanitize the acts of all Polish people during that period is to rewrite history. To carry out the “Final Solution” across an entire continent, the Germans required the collaboration and complicity of many individuals in every country, from leaders, public officials, police, and soldiers to ordinary citizens.
Without a doubt people – particularly Poles – risked their lives to save Jews. Yad Vashem has identified more rescuers from Poland than any other country—6,706. Yet, these Upstanders were the exception rather then the norm. In every country, including Poland, citizens also actively participated in looting Jewish property; identifying, denouncing, and hunting down Jews in hiding; participating in roundups and deportations; and sometimes, as recent scholarship has revealed, carried out or participated in pogroms and murdered their Jewish neighbors.
As one of the most painful and dark chapters in human history, legislation which covers-up the role of Poles and Poland during the Holocaust serves as a distortive abuse of Holocaust memory, and in the end does not further historical truth or advance dialogue or understanding of the complex issues surrounding the Holocaust.
Signed by Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education & Tolerance, Florida Holocaust Museum and Holocaust Museum Houston.