Set the record straight: Germany, not Poland, killed the Jews during WW II

History is not more important than the future. That is why one shall spend more time crafting the future than dwell on the past. The latter is not only time-consuming, but also dangerous. One risks becoming a hard headed nationalist or simply an idiot. Few lads have recently chosen the second option. One was the FBI director James Comey, who blamed Poland and Poles for being complicit in the Holocaust. Second was an ignorant PhD candidate in sociology named Tal Harris, who was given space in Jerusalem Post newspaper. Mr Harris was subtle and gentle to say that Jews died in Polish gas chambers during WW II.

Does it constitute news? Shamefully no. Poland is routinely blamed for what the Germans have done on Polish territory during WW II. Such ideas are deeply entrenched into psyche of global public opinion. However, Polish authorities and more and more Polish citizens are actively trying to defend our country and set the record straight. And the record is:

  • Poland was the first casualty of WW II (as Czechoslovakia was dismembered before first shots were fired, after shameful Munich agreement in 1938);
  • After two and a half weeks of heroic defense efforts Poland was stabbed in the back by the Soviet Union, which made our fate obvious – Poland was to be, again, erased from the map by Germany and Russia. Germany and the Soviet Union were enforcing their secret agreement (Ribbentrop-Molotov pact) which divided Poland between two aggressors;
  • Germany quickly began to realize their strategy of submission of Poland and its citizens. As Germans perceived the Poles and other Slavs as Untermenschen (subhuman), Poles were treated as such. Members of intelligentsia, including professors, officer corps members or public authorities were rounded up and summarily executed. Hundreds of thousands of Poles were sent to Germany for slave labor. The Soviets were no better, with Katyn massacre of more than 20.000 officers serving as a most shocking example;
  • Germans imported to Poland the idea of concentration camps, which were in use in Germany for years under Hitler rule to eliminate opposition, real or imagined, and clear Germany from racially alien elements. To make it simple – to arrest, torture and kill at will. Germans created and operated camps such as Birkenau or Sobibor, killing millions of people, mostly Jews. However, Germans were still operating camps situated in Germany, like Dachau or Sachsenchausen;
  • To be more efficient in killing the Jews, which was the obsession of Germans during WWII, they developed gas chambers to kill en masse. To feed this killing machine they employed thousands of trains, using rail networks of whole Europe.

There were no Polish concentration (death) camps, although there were camps located and operated by the Germans on Polish soil. There were no Polish gas chambers, as it was a German invention used by the Germans in German-operated camps. Poles were not complicit in this enterprise. In fact, millions of Poles – mainly, but not only, Polish Jews – died in German camps at the hands of the Germans.

Poles suffered terribly under German occupation, which was harsh and oriented on submission of Polish citizens. For Germans the Poles were subhuman. However, the same label was not used towards the French or the Dutch, whose countries were also under German occupation. What is forgotten, or – to be more precise – mostly unknown, neither the French, nor the Dutch made much of resistance towards the Germans. We all know that they like to believe they did, but historical record of their resistance is meager at best. Although the French our proud of their “La Resistance” it is much more of a phony story than reality. For the starters – half of France was a German puppet during the war and was called Vichy-France. It was ruled by field marshal Petain, a hero from WW I, who two decades later decided to make his name in history as a coward and a head of German-puppet regime. Petain and his Vichy regime was complicit in the Holocaust, directly helping the Germans in finding, rounding up and transporting the Jews to German death camps located on Polish soil. Similar stories are rife in case of Dutch war effort during WW II.

At the same time when French and Dutch authorities were facilitating German effort of extermination of the European Jewry, in Poland the Home Army, underground resistance group – I shall say the Real Resistance – was fighting a guerrilla war against the Germans. Germans were targeted and killed even when German reprisals on civilians cost hundreds of lives in summary executions. When the Americans crossed an ocean to liberate Europe and started doing that on the beaches of Normandy, Polish Home Army decided to stage an insurrection in the capital of Poland, Warsaw. It was a bloodshed that followed for two months with Germans slaughtering Home Army fighters and civilians alike, killing more than 200.000 people and burning and razing the city to the ground. Nobody helped the Poles, neither Western Allies, who were a bit too far away from Warsaw, nor the Soviet Union, whose soldiers were just across the river Vistula. In fact the Germans were doing the Soviets a favor, clearing Warsaw from any prospective opposition to upcoming Soviet domination over Warsaw, Poland and the whole Central-Eastern Europe.

It would be much more convenient from the likes of James Comey or Tal Harris to know what they are talking about. Their striking ignorance is obvious for Poles and more oriented foreigners, but for a larger audience their lies may sound like a truth. Mr Harris, who altered his article in Jerusalem Post by changing Polish gas chambers to Nazi gas chambers, also pointed on Jedwabne or Kielce, which are supposed to serve as examples of Polish citizens attitude towards the Jews during WW II. As if the Poles, who were the only ones who dared to seriously oppose Germans militarily under occupation, actually sympathized with their oppressors and done more than keeping their fingers crossed for the Jews to be obliterated. Mr Harris is obviously right that the Poles committed pogroms in places like Jedwabne. It is also true that some Poles had anti-Semite attitude and, unfortunately, some have it now as well. It is regrettable and should have not taken place. However, anti-Semitism is not limited to a segment of a Polish society. It was, and still is, a problem in France, the Netherlands and in many other countries, not only in Europe. No one pretending to be serious may single out Poland and the Poles here.

If anyone wonders why I consistently used the words: Germany and Germans, instead of the Nazis, the reason is also simple. Nazis tend to be anonymous, depersonalized people without any origins. In fact Nazis were mostly Germans, had German leadership and, what is pretty inconvenient to recall, were supported by the large majority of German citizens. The use of “Nazis” was one of many factors that led to situation I wrote about above – to Polish death camps and Polish gas chambers.

Piotr Wolejko  

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