Esor Ben-Sorek
Esor Ben-Sorek

Yes, Polish death camps… so arrest me

The Polish Parliament (Sejm) has passed a new law criticizing people who refer to the Nazi death camps built on Polish soil as “Polish death camps.” Imprisonment is up to three years for condemning and defaming the : ”good” name of the Polish State. Nevertheless, since 99% of all death camps were located in Poland, it is quite natural to refer to them as “Polish death camps”.

When pointing out to Poles the massacres of hundreds of Jews at the hand of Polish citizens… not Nazis… in Jedwabne in 1941 and in Kielce in 1946, the Polish masses deny Polish involvement in the atrocities. It is easier now to accuse Nazi Germany of the few crimes which they did not commit. And in doing so, they whitewash the crimes committed by Polish Catholic citizens.

Poland refers to the large number of Polish non-Jews who risked their own lives and the lives of their families for offering aid to Jewish neighbors and for providing safe shelter for many. That fact is not to be disputed. And we remain eternally grateful. But the numbers are abysmally small. Of a total Polish population in 1939 (34,776, 220) only 6,000 Poles are known to have participated in the rescue of Jews.

These 6,000 Polish Christians are honored as Righteous Gentiles in the annals of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center in Jerusalem.

In spite of the present regime in Poland seeking to deny Polish participation in the massacres of Jews, Polish historians have recorded the truth and the facts based upon eye-witness accounts to the tragedies.

Poles in Jedwabne in 1941 locked more than 300 Jews, men, women and small children, in a very large wooden barn and set it on fire burning the Jews alive. Jedwabne Polish Christians who witnessed it have testified against their Polish criminal neighbors. A handful of the criminals were punished after the war.

In 1946, a handful of Jewish survivors from Auschwitz (Oswiecim) made their way back to their former homes in the city of Kielce. They found their homes and property had been confiscated by Poles who had moved into the former Jewish homes and who refused to evacuate and return Jewish property to the ragged survivors.

Disputes arose and in the end, citizens of Kielce made a pogrom killing 42 elderly Jewish survivors. The puppet Communist government in post-war Poland found the perpetrators guilty and executed them.

Poland has never denied its responsibility for the Kielce pogrom since it occurred when there were no longer Nazi troops on Polish soil. But until today, the Jedwabne massacre, although proven by Polish historians, continues to be denied by most Poles and by the Polish government which attributes the crime to the Nazi Germans. “Germany is guilty of this crime, not Poland” is their response.

While the new Poland is more liberal and tolerant of its remaining 40,000 Jews, it can never in the history of mankind be cleansed from its title as “the most anti-Semitic government and nation in all of Europe.” That stain will forever be unwashable, unforgotten and unforgiven by world Jewry.

Inspired by the conservative Polish Catholic church, Poland was the scene of pogroms, massacres and anti-Jewish legislation since the 12th century. The very first Polish leader to denounce anti-Semitism was Marshall Josef Pilsudski, war hero and later President of Poland in 1921. Few other Polish leaders followed his magnanimous example.

The cry of “Zydzie do Palestina” has been heard in Poland even after 1969. Poland wants an end to one thousand years of Jewish history in its land.

My late father was a survivor of the 1905 pogrom in Bialystok and I am witness to the countless stories told to me by Polish Jewish survivors in Poland in 1969.

While it is not correct to accuse the majority of the Poles of collaboration with the Germans unlike the Lithuanian collaborators, the 1941 and 1946 massacres of Polish Jews at the hands of their Christian neighbors is indisputable fact.

So if I continue to refer to Polish death camps, built and operated by Germans, I will be found guilty of defaming the Polish nation.

Let me, then, be the first Israeli Jew to be arrested for violation of Poland’s new and despicable law.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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