An improved version of the history

Picture taken in Sokolow Podlaski during the war. The ghetto was liquidated there on September 22, 1942

Polish Pilecki Institute decided to commemorate today a Pole involved in saving Jews. That’s good. It did it, however, on the day of the anniversary of the liquidation of the surrounding ghettos. This is terrible, because in this way the Institute employees twist reality, once again showing that according to the new “history policy” it is not the Jewish victims but noble Poles, who are the most important.

Polish state institutions dealing with history – among them the Pilecki Institute – place great emphasis on Poles who behaved nobly and helped Jews during the war. The truth is that there were not many such Poles – several thousand among millions of indifferent or hostile people. The narrative focused on these people emphasizes the isolation of the dying Jews.

Jews, even those who had been assimilated for generations, could not feel Poles during the war. They were excluded from the national community by both Germans and Poles themselves.

Current “history policy” of the Polish state mainly likes those Jews who are already dead. Earlier, for one thousand years of living together in the ” Republic of Friends”, as President Andrzej Duda likes to describe our past, Polish Jews were perceived as alien. In the interwar period, Jews struggled with an economic boycott of their shops and with everyday violence. Those who could leave Poland, left. Most of the others stayed because they had no means to leave. Then came the war.

And since – as state officials say – Poles saved Jews en masse, why did so few survive?

Poland does not want to remember its true history. It prefers its improved version, one which stresses bravery, courage and integrity. We probably would like to be like that, but we’ve never been. The worst thing is that I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to accept it.

About the Author
Katarzyna Markusz is a journalist and Editor-in-Chief of and a correspondent of JTA. She is doing research about Jewish life in Sokolow-Podlaski, Poland before and during the WWII.
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