Polish Authorities Try to Suppress What Really Happened to Jews in Poland

The gang-up on Israel we have seen since October 7 did not spring up ex nihilo. It has long and deep roots. Poland, for instance, has tried to forget that it was not just a blameless victim of the Nazis. There were Poles who during the war hid Jews, and Poles make up one-fourth of the names of Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem. But there were also Poles who helped the Nazis, leading them to places where Jews were hiding. Just after the war, when the few Jews who had survived the camps returned to reclaim their homes, they were often forced by the Poles who had taken over their homes and businesses to go away empty-handed. Jews were not just expelled, but in some places murdered by the Poles occupying their property, so as to prevent them from ever bringing a claim.

The Polish government has in recent years come down hard on Polish historians researching and writing on the subject of Polish mistreatment, betrayal, and murder of Jews during and after the war. Two of them, Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, have been declared guilty of the defamation of Edward Malinowski, who was the prewar mayor of a Polish village called Malinowo. More on the travails of these historians, and the attempt of Polish authorities to suppress the findings of historians studying what really happened to Jews in Poland, are discussed in this 2021 article that has taken on new significance in light of how the world has treated Israel since October 7:

Two Polish historians of the Holocaust, Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, are fighting a court ruling that pronounced them guilty of defaming a long-deceased Polish village official. Grabowski and Engelking are the editors of “Dalej Jest Noc. Losy Żydów w Wybranych Powiatach Okupowanej Polski” (“Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland”). It was published in 2018, to significant academic acclaim and surprisingly brisk sales for a two-volume, seventeen-hundred-page scholarly title. One chapter, written by Engelking, mentioned Edward Malinowski, the prewar mayor of a small village called Malinowo. According to testimony uncovered by Engelking, Malinowski led the Nazis to Jews who were hiding in the forest outside the village; twenty-two people were killed. Last month, a Warsaw district court found that this passage of “Night Without End” defamed Malinowski, and ordered Grabowski and Engelking to apologize in print. Grabowski and Engelking have appealed the ruling.

The two historians’ legal troubles stem from the Polish government’s ongoing effort to exonerate Poland of any role in the deaths of three million Jews in Poland during the Nazi occupation. When facts get in the way of this revisionist effort, historians pay the price. In 2016, Polish authorities began investigating the Polish-American historian Jan Tomasz Gross, the author of the groundbreaking book “Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland.” He was accused of insulting the Polish people for his observation that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the Second World War. The case dragged on for three years, with Gross subjected to hours of police interrogations; the government also threatened to strip Gross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, a state honor he had received in 1996. (The state dropped the investigation after Gross retired from his job at Princeton.) Over 2019 and 2020, Dariusz Stola, the head of Warsaw’s acclaimed museum of Polish Jewry, found himself slowly squeezed out of his job, again by the Polish government….

If Poland wants to convince the world that all Polet were blameless, that the murder of Polish Jews was entirely a German affair with which Poles had nothing to do — something we know to be false thanks to Polish historians, by no means all of them Jewish — it is certainly not helping itself with the decision of the country’s National Bank to issue a commemorative silver coin honoring a figure who was both a noted guerrilla leader fighting the Soviet-backed communists in postwar Poland, and an antisemite who murdered Jews. More on this ill-advised plan to honor such a personage can be found here.

Poland’s National Bank has announced that it will issue a special silver coin commemorating a leading figure in the post-war anti-communist underground who was accused of murdering Jews in the country’s Podhale region.

The coin honoring Józef Kuraś, to be issued on March 15, forms part of a series commemorating the “doomed soldiers” who fought the Soviet Union’s takeover of Poland in the aftermath of World War IIKuraś joined the anti-Nazi resistance in 1939, emerging as a leading figure in the anti-communist movement in April 1945. For nearly two years, units of Kuraś’s “Błyskawica”organization were active in southern and central Poland. In Jan. 1947, Kuraś is understood to have committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner by the communist authorities amid a gun battle in the village of Ostrowsko….

“Since the publication of Jan Gross’s groundbreaking books in the 2000s, Poland made a lot of progress as a democratic nation in dealing with the legacy of antisemitism – but over the last years much of that progress has been reversed and a far-right nationalist outlook on Polish history has prevailed in many institutions,” Rafal Pankowski, executive director of the “Never Again” Association, told The Algemeiner in an email.

“This is one more instance of a glorification of a notorious antisemitic figure by an important state institution,” Pankowski added.

To glorify this person who, however stubbornly he may have resisted the Communist takeover of Poland, was also an antisemite responsible for murdering dozens of Jews, including orphans, and perhaps many more, is most unwise. It is tantamount to a declaration that “we can’t base our judgements of someone on how he viewed or treated the Jews. We’ve heard quite enough about their victimhood. What about our victimhood at the hands of the Communists? Why should we not honor someone who bravely fought the Communists, even if he was not perfect when it came to dealing with Jews? He was a Polish patriot, and for that he is being honored.”

Unfortunately, that appalling point of view has been adopted by too many people in Poland. It will take a great effort to educate young Poles as to how Jews were actually treated – some well, but also some very badly, even murderously – by Poles, during and after the war. But it’s a task that must be undertaken.



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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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