Poland was the site of the Holocaust-Germany executed it

Arguably, the Polish government and the Lower House of their Parliament are right-There were no Polish death camps, there were only German death camps on Polish soil.If it is only a semantic issue, then there should be no issue at all. Who in their right mind can deny the obvious, and it is that the Holocaust was the project of the German people, in which the Ruling party, the Nazis,with all the organs subservient to them, the German State bureaucracy , the German police and the German army, the Wermacht , were those which planned, prepared and perpetrated the Holocaust. There would not have been an holocaust, if it was not for the existence of the German state known as the Third Reich, between 1933-1945. This state went far beyond and above traditional antisemitism as was known and executed in Europe for centuries,in order to bring antisemitism to its logical conclusion, which is the total destruction of Judaism and the Jews . For all kinds of reasons, the land of Poland was picked up as the main territory to serve as the collective slaughter house of the Jewish people, but it was not the only territory used for that purpose.

Despite the public outrage in Israel regarding the new proposed law in Poland, which criminalize any mention in public of complicity of Poles in the extermination of our people, the simple truth is, that the Holocaust with all its manifestations was a German project. Not Polish, not Ukrainian, not Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, French, or any other nation, which in one way or another, participated in, or contributed to the Holocaust. The list of nations which had ”something ” to do with the Holocaust is long, stretching from Sweden whose so-called neutrality was, in fact, one of the main contributions to the German war effort , through the supply of iron or, all the way to Great Britain which locked the gates of Eretz Israel during the war, thus depriving some , at least, of our persecuted people , from being able to flee to the historic homeland of the Jewish people, the place which should have been the natural escape place for Jews.

The issue discussed here however is not semantic only, and so, we do have a problem on our hands. While it is true, that the holocaust was a German national crime against our nation, it is also sadly true, that the murderous Germans were helped by others, mostly from the nations mentioned above, and surely by many Poles. Yes, many Poles betrayed Jews to the Germans, knowing exactly what it would lead to, many Poles were fully aware of what was happening in the death camps, many Poles really wanted the Germans to do what antisemites in Poland dreamed about for centuries, clearly also in the years leading to WW2 and the war itself, which was to cleanse Poland of its Jewish population. Very little help was given to the Warsaw Ghetto heroes by the Polish underground, both the Right Wing AK, and the Left Wing Al. Moreover, Poles participated in actual murder of Jews during the war, and the most notorious and inexcusable example, is the Jedwabne massacre in July 1941, when over 1500 Jews were murdered by their Polish neighbors. We can go on and on , the list of Polish crimes against Jews during the war is endless. But there were also other Poles, and in fact, many of them.

There was the Zegota organization, a Polish group whose members saved many Jewish lives, nearly 7000 Poles who were recognized as Righteous Gentiles, 50000 Poles who were, according to some estimates, executed by the Germans, for the ”crime” of helping and saving Jews.[The number seems too high though]. There were great heroes like Jan Karski and Irina Sendler , people who deserve eternal Jewish respect. Here is the problem with the Polish new law-it is the sense , which the law creates, and deliberately so, that the Poles had nothing at all to do with the Holocaust. Well, the Poles had to do with it, though they were hitch hikers, jumping on the band wagon. It is the Polish state own interest, to present to the world a more balanced picture of the situation in Poland during the war, by rejecting rightly the notion of Polish death camps, while acknowledging responsibility to the crimes which were committed by Poles. It is not happening in Poland, because a wave of nationalism is sweeping this country, and in Poland it is always the case, that rising Polish sense of nationalism includes an antisemitic element.

That said, the anti Polish outrage is exaggerated and troubling. I , for one, cannot remember such outrage, particularly from PM Netanyahu, against very bad examples of German antisemitism in recent months and years. Remember,for example, Foreign Minister Gabriel outbursts, and soon he is coming again to Israel and will be honored by Netanyahu. I have a bad feel about it -The current proud, national Likud Government has picked up Poland for public attacks, because Poland altogether seems to be an easier and more convenient target, than say Germany itself. Make no mistake-The Polish law is preposterous in its current form, but the Holocaust was not a Polish project, It was German and the greatest , unending historic account of the Jews is and should always be mainly with the Germans, and it is far from over. The death camps were German, not Polish and there were death camps only because the Germans wanted them to be.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina