Polish Holocaust law has side effects

Poland has passed a law criminalizing blaming the Polish people for the murder of millions of Jews in Poland during the Holocaust.

Like many important matters it starts with certain sparks. The description of Auschwitz as a “Polish Death Camp” was provocative, controversial and technically inaccurate.

The inaccuracy may be in the definition of the Nazi death Camp as a “Polish” Death Camp. A concentration camp where over a million were imprisoned and a place of brutality, terror, cruelty, starvation and systematic mass murder, yes, but not ‘Polish?’

The camp was a German Nazi camp but located in Poland. Poland was conquered and occupied by Nazi Germany.

The law, while possibly with some justification objectively intends to criminalize certain expressions regarding the Holocaust in Poland. As such it clearly will have a chilling effect on what is said or written in Poland about Polish involvement in the Sho’ah, Holocaust.

What has been surprising and interesting to me, as a son of Holocaust survivors and a lifelong student of the Sho’ah has been a positive side effect of the law and the debate surrounding it.

See the Washington Post article:


There has been recent interest and Israeli media coverage of an anti semitic massacre at Jedwabne a Polish town in 1941.   The subtstance being that the townsfolk rounded up their Jewish neighbors, hurded them into a barn and set it a fire to murder them.

This has led to exposure of historical research on a series of such Jew Hatred motivated mass murders of the Jewish inhabitants of certain Polish towns. The historians, Polish professors, like Jan Gross. Have been subjected to hatred, vilification and threats.  See: Neighbors – The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, 2001.

The positive but unintended side effect has not only been the widespeard interest in and publication of these ‘incidents’ of genocide against entire Jewish communities, but the IMPORTANT FACT that much of the holocaust did not take place in Auschwitz and major, known Death and Slave Labor camps BUT IN Towns and Villages in many regions and countries of Europe.

These massacres often took place simultaneous with the arrival of German military forces, often few German units,  and could not have taken place without, the initiative and murderous acts of many of the local populations (in Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia,and others).

Consider also the local police, militias allied with Nazi forces.  More than a welcoming committee.

However one views the details of multiple responsibility for the anti Jewish murderous pogroms the law has served to re-energize the interest in this awful period and the lessons we learn from it.

By Jeffrey Eli Spitzer

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Footnotes from Wkipedia,   Jedwabvne Pogrom, April 14, 2018

Alexander B. RossinoPolish ‘Neighbors’ and German Invaders: Contextualizing Anti-Jewish Violence in the Białystok District during the Opening Weeks of Operation Barbarossa, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 16 (2003). See citation #43: Michal Gnatowski, “W radzieckich okowach: studium o agresji 17 wrzesnia 1939 r. i radzieckiej polityce w regionie Łomzynskim w latach 1939-1941” (Łomza: Łomzynskie Tow. Nauk. im. Wagów, 1997), p. 115. Among the 22,353 deportees, were families from around BiałystokJedwabneŁomżaand Wizna.

Polonsky, A., & Michlic, J. B. (2004). The neighbors respond: the controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11306-8

See aslo: Radzilow Pogrom

About the Author
An American born, Israeli, trained, licensed and practiced Trial Lawyer in NYC and Israel. Made Aliya 25 years ago after being an Ass't District Attorney and private Criminal Defense lawyer. Then Justice Ministry in Israel Criminal Law and Legislation and Knesset Commitee participation. Worked in the legal department of the Jerusalem Municipality for AG Eliakim Rubenstein and (PM) Olmert.