Sheldon Kirshner

Fake News Out of Poland

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Last month, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stirred indignation and outrage when he falsely asserted that Jews were among the perpetrators of the Holocaust. This absurd claim was widely regarded as an affront to the historical record.

Several days ago, Morawiecki’s father, Kornel, a former senator, claimed that Polish Jews had voluntarily moved to Nazi ghettos in Poland to physically remove themselves from Polish Christians. This comment was so devoid of the truth that the Polish government distanced itself from it. Much to his credit, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Bartosz Cichocki, said it does not reflect Poland’s official position.

The Morawieckis issued their respective statements following a crisis sparked by the passage of legislation that criminalizes accusations that the Polish “nation” and the “Republic of Poland” were complicit in Nazi crimes against the 3.3 million Jews of Poland. This misbegotten law, designed to burnish Poland’s international image, came under fire because it could well stifle free speech, distort history and whitewash crimes committed by Poles during the Holocaust.

After Israel and the United States criticized it, Poland sent diplomats to Jerusalem and Washington to ease tensions. But on March 22, the Polish attorney general’s office described the legislation as partially unconstitutional, saying it was “dysfunctional,” could have “opposite results than those intended,” and could “undermine the Polish state’s authority.”

Amid this tide of acrimony, the Morawieckis exacerbated an already tense situation by making baseless comments that can only tarnish Poland’s reputation.

Mateusz Morawiecki’s feeble attempt to equate Nazi killers and Polish collaborators with the handful of cowed Jews who were forced to work for the Nazis was nothing less than a travesty. To compare such captive Jews to German and Polish murderers bent on exterminating the Jewish community of Poland was superficial and scandalous.

Kornel Morawiecki’s version of events was also ridiculous.

“Do you know who chased the Jews away to the Warsaw ghetto?” he said in an interview with an online Polish magazine. “The Germans, you think? No. The Jews themselves went because they were told that there would be an enclave, that they would not have to deal with those nasty Poles.”

And in another remark that strains credulity, he said that Jewish policemen, rather than Germans, sent Jews to Polish city squares, from which they were deported to Nazi extermination camps like Treblinka and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The fact of the matter is that the German administration in occupied Poland planned and implemented the policy of squeezing Jews into inhumanely congested ghettos. Why would Jews willingly uproot themselves to eke out a bare existence in such horrid places? It’s a figment of Morawiecki’s fevered imagination to believe that Polish Jews were so alienated from their Christian neighbors that they would subject themselves to such self-degradation.

No self-respecting historian has ever even remotely suggested that this was actually the case.

The record shows that as early as September 21, 1939, nearly three weeks after Germany invaded Poland, the head of the Main Office of Reich Security, Reinhard Heydrich, issued a clear directive that Polish Jews should be removed from western areas annexed by the Germans and concentrated in designated ghettos in the General Government.

Nazi-appointed Jewish Councils were charged with carrying out these orders. The concentration of Jews in ghettos was seen by the Germans as the first step of their expulsion from Christian society. The first ghetto in Poland, in Piotrkow Trybunalski, was set up in October 1939. The first ghetto in a major city was established in Lodz in February 1940. The ghetto in Warsaw was deliberately opened by the Nazis on October 12, 1940 — Yom Kippur.

The Holocaust in Poland, a complex event with myriad shades of grey, should be studied with diligence and respect. It should not be trivialized by people who are faintly familiar with only bits and pieces of it. The Morawieckis, father and son, fall into that benighted category.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,