Polish Nation Helped Jews and Warned World About Nazi's Final Solution, Poland's President Says

Letter from president, who needs to sign off on new legislation claims, that though Nazis wanted to annihilate Jews, 'many tend to ignore that they also led to extermination of Polish' people

Poland's President Andrzej Duda at a news conference in  Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017.
Czarek Sokolowski/AP

The office of the Polish president claimed Friday that the "Polish nation" helped "our Jewish neighbors" during the Holocaust and even "alarmed the world about the atrocities of the German Final Solution when there was still time to stop it."

The statement by Polish President Andrzej Duda's cabinet chief also said that though "the barbaric Nazi German ideology aimed at a complete annihilation of the Jewish nation, many tend to ignore that it also led to enslavement, expulsion and eventually to extermination of the Polish and other Slavic peoples."

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The letter by Duda's senior aide, Krzysztof Szczerski, was sent to the U.S. Congressional Anti-Semitism Task Force in response to their demand this week that Poland backtrack legislation that once approved by parliament and ratified by the president will bar any mention of involvement by the Polish people, nation or state in Nazi crimes. Though specific examples Polish involvement in the Holocaust will still be permitted, the law has caused controversy with many claiming it is an attempt to whitewash Poland's history.

Duda, whose office published the letter, can demand changes be implemented in the legislation. However, the letter seems to indicate that the Polish president agrees with the spirit of the law.

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"Each year we continue to register hundreds of cases where defamatory language, including the phrase 'Polish death camps,' reappears. These false assertions must not be accepted. Defending the truth is impossible when the lies remain unchallenged," the statement said.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda open the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in the village of Markowa, in Poland
Czarek Sokolowski / AP1\

The letter lays out the contemporary Polish narrative regarding the Polish people's actions during the Holocaust and it stresses that Poland as a country was under Nazi occupation and was thus ceased to exist during that time. Moreover, during this period, the Polish people – and not just the Jews – were the victims of Nazi "terror."

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The letter also praises the "thousands of Poles that continued to help their Jewish neighbors despite the draconian law and terrible conditions of the German occupation," including the 6,700 Righteous Among the Nations. Specifically the letter notes that "the Polish Underground State established the Council to Aid Jews “egota” to save as many Jewish lives as possible."

The letter concedes that "nobody in Poland who has elementary knowledge of history" would deny that "there were instances of Polish people behaving disgracefully towards Jews during World War II." Such instances are unequivocally condemned in the letter which stresses that "we do not intend to erase them from our past.

"However, unlike in several other European countries where governments cooperated with the Nazi Germany, such actions were never part of the official policy of the Polish government-in-exile," the letter says, returning to the main crux of the Polish narrative.

"Poland did not collaborate with the Germans in any form. On the contrary that is why we cannot accept accusing the Polish state or the Polish Nation as a whole of being responsible for or complicit in the genocide of the Jewish population during World War II. Such suggestions deny the truth about the Holocaust," the letter concluded.