Thursday, February 8, 2018

Challenge for the Polish Government... Don't rewrite history

This week Poland passed a controversial Holocaust bill into law. In essence, this new law makes saying some holocaust statements a crime and it makes it illegal to accuse the nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany.  For instance, you no longer can say "Polish death camps" in relation to Aushwitz and other such camps located in Nazi-occupied Poland.

It is a true that making the statement "Polish death camps" is misleading.  Make no mistake about it, Nazi's are the ones that built those camps.  We need to educate people and work towards countering misleading speech.  However, it is also a fact that there were certain Polish groups and individuals that collaborated and worked with the Nazi occupiers.  To try to rewrite history is very dangerous and destructive.

As many of you know, my family was saved by good non Jewish Polish families.  Many Polish people were murdered, both Jewish and Non Jewish. However, it is also true that there were many that worked closely with the Germans and collaborated, whatever their reasons.  Some would say they were just trying to survive - to protect their families. And although, that may be true to an extent, the reality is that this period of history allowed many  anti-Semitic personal beliefs rise to the surface and gave them a mechanism to act on them.

Many times, when my dad and I speak, there are many people that can not believe that the area he was from was so accepting of Jews.  There really was not much, if any, anti-Semitism.  But this was not true throughout the country.  My mother, who lived in Poland for 5 years as a teenager after the war, remembers the derogatory comments her classmates made to her and how she was bullied for being Jewish.

The definition of the term "history" is "the study of past events, particularly in human affairs".  By Poland making it illegal to discuss events as they occurred, they are in essence trying to change history and rewrite it in a way that makes them feel good and comfortable.

I have a question and challenge for the Polish government.

Instead of running from the past and trying to rewrite it, how about trying to learn from it and figure out how to teach the new generation the lessons that can be learned.  Embracing and accepting the past can be liberating.  Saying - "Yes there were those that collaborated, but yet at the same time, we must remember that many Polish people perished, many were good and tried to do the right thing.  Let's remember those people and celebrate their lives and the lives lost."

And for those that turned down the dark path - let's remember that there is always darkness in war, there are always those that will use any excuse to allow their hatred, bigotry and intolerance to come to the surface and prevail - but look at how the world came together to fight against that.  Poland is a beautiful country, with strong wonderful and kind people.  Please don't continue going down a path that will lead the world to only remember Poland and it's people as an intolerant and anti-Semitic country that is not willing to accept and remember history as it occurred!

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