Opinion |

Dear Poland: Your Holocaust Law Fools No One. No One Forgets

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Women are pictured in their barrack after the liberation in January 1945 of the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) concentration camp. The Auschwitz camp was established by the Nazis in 1940, in the suburbs of the city of Oswiecim which, like other parts of Poland, was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.
Women are pictured in their barrack after the liberation in January 1945 of the Auschwitz concentration camp.Credit: AFP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Dear Poland,

You really sure you want to go down this road?

That law you passed this month. "Whoever accuses ...  the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years."

Who do you think you're fooling?

In country after country, Holocaust survivors did not make up the stories of those Ukrainians and Lithuanians and Latvians and, Russians and, yes, Poles, who proved themselves  more enthusiastic than the Germans in hunting down and slaughtering Jews.

No one forgets a thing. The survivors forgot nothing of what they went through. What was done to them. And by whom.

They've told their stories. You can't legislate away actual memories. This can't be washed. It doesn't go away.

You can sentence the truth to three years, or 30 to life. The truth doesn't change.  Because, in the end, nobody forgets anything.

Just as nobody forgets the thousands of Poles who saved Jews during the war, nobody forgets those Polish neighbors who ratted out the Jewish family next door. Or the thousands of Poles who aided the Nazis in other ways.

Your prime minister can say there were Polish perpetrators, just as there were Jewish perpetrators. No one's fooled, unless you are.

There were survivors who returned home to find that the Polish neighbor who turned them in, had been only too happy to take over the Jewish family's property and move into their home.

Nobody forgets that after the war, when the few Jews still alive managed to make it home, Poles initiated and carried out murderous pogroms against survivors. No Germans involved.

More than a full year after the war ended, in July 1946, a blood libel rumor spread in the Polish town of Kielce, which before the Holocaust had been home to 24,000 Jews. Fewer than 200 made it back alive.

It took three days for the blood libel to spread, and then a mob of Polish soldiers, police officers and civilians shot or beat to death at least 42 Jews and seriously injured 50 more.

Dear Poland, you really want to go there?

You can pass all the laws you want. You're fooling yourselves, and only yourselves, if you think this is going to change a thing.

Because nobody forgets anything.

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