One of the key points made by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, in last week’s interview was that not all of Poland supports the new Holocaust law that forbids attributing any responsibility for the Holocaust to Poland:
There is a certain segment of the population that likes the law very much. And there is a whole other bunch of people that really don’t get why it is at all necessary.
I believe that certainly more than half the country is against the law.
Proving that point, on March 11, several hundred Poles gathered at the Gdansk Railway Station in Warsaw with the group Solidarity in Truth to express solidarity with the Polish Jews who had to leave 50 years earlier in 1968 when Polish authorities forced several thousand Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to leave the country.
|Logo of Solidarity in Truth. From the site|
There is a video of the event, where a number of prominent Poles spoke out. El?bieta Podle?na of Polish Women’s Strike spoke at the event and was also interviewed.
|El?bieta Podle?na of the group Polish Women’s Strike. From snapshot of the video|
Aga Zaryan, Polish jazz vocalist, read an open letter addressed to international public opinion, at the initiative of 110 civic NGOs in Poland who signed on to the letter:
And from many other places in the world, where we live, study and work. We, the Poles, who do not agree with how current policy casts a pall over the Polish-Jewish relations developed over the years. We write to all of you who look at Poland today with disbelief, sadness or anger.
We write because we want you to know that regardless of how radical and inappropriate the positions of Polish authorities or certain groups are, these are not the positions and views of us all. We ask that you keep current politics in perspective, although we know how difficult this may be.
There are millions of people in our country for whom the Polish-Jewish dialogue and the truth about common history are important. We write to you as friends to friends, so that you may know that we are there, in Poland and the times that history and heritage bound us, and that we are also bound together in daily life and the future…
The letter appears in full on the Solidarity in Truth website, translated into Polish, Hebrew and English.
On March 15, after postponing debate, the Polish government finally approved a law making March 24th a national holiday remembering and honoring Poles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The debate was originally tabled due to the tensions resulting from the new Holocaust law. The day chosen is the day in 1944 when members of the Polish Ulma family — a father, pregnant mother and their six children — were executed by the Nazis for hiding Jews in their home. According to Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, between 700 and 1,100 Poles were killed by the Nazis for trying to rescue Jews.
Still, there are critics who accuse the Polish government of using the new holiday to conceal the role played by Poles in Nazi crimes and exaggerating the role actually played by Poles in saving Jews.
Also last month, on its own initiative The Polish Bishops’ Conference issued a statement in reaction to an eruption of anti-Jewish rhetoric in Poland, stating that anti-Semitism is “contradictory to the principles of Christian love of one’s neighbor.”
In response, a group of rabbis in Poland expressed their appreciation for their condemnation, and in return promised to continue to speak out against similar attitudes among Israelis and American Jews expressing anti-Polish sentiment.
There continues to be a lot of tension in Poland today. The Holocaust law has not only caused accusations that the Polish government is trying to hide the role Poland played during the Holocaust and has had a chilling effect. The law has also encouraged antisemites in Poland to be more open about their opinions.
The fact that there are Poles willing to openly condemn both the new law itself and antisemitism in Poland is a promising step that will hopefully lead to a long overdue healing.
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