When nations hide their Holocaust complicity in the basement stacks

Jews of Poland today are once again confronted with the same anti-Semitism that their parents and grandparents experienced just a short seventy five years ago.

Stanley Zir,

Stanley Zir
Stanley Zir
PR

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."  (Sir Walter Scott)

Leading a nation by deceit and non-transparency is not leadership at all.  When a nation does not own up to its faults, as horrible as they may be and hides behind a false narrative that tries to cover up its complicity in an atrocity, what follows can only be a house of cards built on a flimsy foundation. It sets the citizens up for failure and ultimately to defeat. That is what President Andrzej Duda of Poland is perpetrating on his own people by passing a law that covers up its complicity against acts of genocide against the Jewish People. By denying and diminishing the Polish people’s role in abetting the Nazis to make Europe Juden-Frei, Duda not only further shames his own nation, but is raising a very red (Swastika) flag to the Polish Jews who now proudly claim Poland as their home.

Jews of Poland today are once again confronted with the same anti-Semitism that their parents and grandparents experienced just a short seventy five years ago. Jews, in Poland and around the world, who watch in utter amazement as the United Nations consistently condemns Israel for crimes against humanity, where the majority of the nations are themselves denying basic human and civil rights to their own citizens, feel the creep of underlying anti-Semitism slowly rear its head and wonder why no other democratic and freedom-loving nations, with the exception of Israel and the United States, aren’t calling it out.

President Duda insists that there was no participation by Poland or of its people in the Holocaust, but deliberately chooses to soften and whitewash the actual collusion by revising the evil and saying that some Poles took "wicked" actions against Jewish neighbors.

Let’s take a look at some of these wicked actions as described by Anna Bikont in her book “The Crime and the Silence, “On July 10, 1941 in Jedwabne, a town of 3,000 residents in northeastern Poland.  A mob of Catholic Poles murdered most of their Jewish neighbors that day…Using axes, clubs, and knifes, the mob first killed some 40 Jewish men.  The remaining Jews – men, women and children, many of them infants – were herded into a wooden barn on the outskirts of the town.  Then, as the jeering mob watched, the murderers barred the doors, poured gasoline on the structure and lit the fire.” Would any sentient human view this simply as a wicked action?

The deliberate murder of  200,000 Polish Jews is not a little wicked action.  As Israeli Politician Shulamit Moalem-Refaeli stated, “…we cannot accept the distortion of history, and any country that does so is not a friend of Israel.”

What Duda, and those who support his Polish patriotic bravado don’t seem to understand is this law sends a message to every citizen in Poland and around the world that the Jewish people have perpetuated a lie against the great nation of Poland.  It is the same WWII message that permeated all through Europe. Jews are the maggots that must be expunged. Duda, by his revisionist propaganda, is just placing his signature on the Juden-frei Certificate of Participation.  Hatred of Jews is alive again in Poland, and around the world.

Duda is trying to uphold his nation and his citizens as heroic freedom fighters, but by denying their complicity as collaborators and their participation in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews, he is perpetrating an inaccurate account of his own nation’s history. While there no doubt were Polish partisans and “righteous Christians” who saw the inhumanity of the attacks on Jews and tried to hide and save them, this new law is a slap in the face of those partisans. Poland cannot minimize the vast numbers of Polish people that aided the Nazis, leading to the interment and destruction of hundreds of thousands of Jews. This is a law one would expect in China or Cuba, not in a country that promotes itself as G-d loving and respectful of freedom.

Herein lies the irony. The Polish people live in fear that their freedoms will be taken over by the constant threat of Russian aggression that looms over their country on a daily basis.  It seems like these so-called freedom loving citizens would be more mindful of those they watched stripped of their freedoms and shipped off to the camps of Treblinka and Auschwitz.

You would think that such civilized citizens would instead of trying to divest themselves of the shame of having been responsible for the death of so many Jews might instead take ownership of their involvement reminding themselves of those courageous Jewish warriors who rebelled with sticks and stones during the Warsaw uprisings.

Evidently, anti-Semitism, this horrible cancerous beast, was only in remission in Poland and is re-emerging openly in her President. By revising history, President Duda can blame the Jews and their compelling lies for bringing great shame upon Poland and the freedom loving people of that nation.  Allowing this distortion to pass without resistance is a huge mistake. Not only is the denying of their true participation a dangerous lie, but in the long run, the unfortunate result will forever reveal that these so-called proud freedom-loving Polish people will be scarred as unrepentant Holocaust enablers, blind anti-Semites with a “blame the victim” mentality.

Duda should look to a nation like America which carries the shame of supporting slavery in its infancy as a new country. However, America, under President Lincoln, looked at the documents of our Founders that stated that all men were created equal. It was not easy to swallow and it certainly has stained our glory, but we did not ignore the fact that this was a part of our history and culture. Instead of hiding it, we faced it, changed it and continue to educate our generations so they can recognize baseless hatred in their midst. We educate our students about the Civil War and the reason that divided the North from the South. It is an ugly part of our history but we do not deny it, nor do we make a law that prohibits speaking openly about it. It is what makes America beautiful and why she continues to lead the world.

Poland, by denying and covering up their seedy past, prohibits its citizens the opportunity to re-emerge as a proud people who could be known as the nation that remained ever vigilant in preventing the re-emergence of Anti Antisemitism in Poland, and recognizing it as it crops up around the world. It is the ownership of this shameful deed that will keep them eternally free, not the burying of it under false bravado. It is inconceivable that Poland can promote itself as a proud, free nation that rejects Fascism and hatred in the world, when in fact, they themselves are Holocaust deniers.

President Trump recently praised Poland with the words, “The triumph of the Polish spirit over centuries of hardship gives us all hope for a future in which good conquers evil, and peace achieves victory over war. But there is courage and strength deep in the Polish character that no one could destroy.” This can only ring true when the Polish people accept the whole package of both their bravery and their cowardice.

Do you think this can’t be done? That the task of transforming an innate attitude is impossible? Let me tell you the amazing story of David Silberman, a Latvian refusnik and chronicler of the Holocaust who staged a sit-in at the Kremlin in 1975 that opened the door for Latvian Jews, thereby allowing them to leave Russia for Israel.

When the officials of Latvia wanted a complete historical account of the State’s history for educational purposes they commissioned a historian to gather accurate facts.  In his research he contacted David for his contribution. David read what the historian had compiled about the people of Riga having taken a very strong stand against the Nazi occupation and took exception. He pointed out to the historian that, in fact, his countrymen became collaborators helping the Nazis eradicate the Jewish population. The historian said that he could not present such an observation.

David corrected him and said, “In fact, you can print it and you must.”  Incredulously, that is exactly what they did. The deliberate misrepresentation of the facts that the officials of Latvia wanted to present to its countrymen could no longer be covered up. The documentation about Riga’s collaborating with the Soviets to liberate Latvia from Germany and partnering with the Nazis to exterminate the Jewish population is now part of the official State history as taught in their schools and in history books. The lie ended. It was only in that clarity that Latvia has emerged as a truly free nation and the following generations can live without senseless hatred.

 David continues to fight for justice, seeking restitution of land, art and money for property belonging to the Jews of Riga that were confiscated by the government.

At a 2001 commemoration of the murdered victims in the Bikerneiki forest, David approached architect, Sergej Ryzh to design a memorial honoring the victims of Preili, David’s hometown.  The officials of Preili were not enthusiastic to be reminded about a shameful part of their history and tried to block the effort with bureaucratic nonsense. Undeterred by the three year obstacles of paperwork, David and his team went to work collecting detailed information that would be displayed at the new Preili Holocaust Memorial within the grounds of the Preili Jewish Cemetery, where 750 Jews were executed in one day by the Nazis. 

The memorial was dedicated on August 8, 2004 dedication, coinciding with the 63rd anniversary of the town’s Jewish execution, Prieli. Dignitaries from all around the world, including ambassadors from Israel, Germany and Russia turned out en masse to honor those who had suffered at the hands of Nazi and local Nazi Collaborators. Since then, David and his team have supplied local schools with books and valuable historical documentation so that the once booming Jewish population of Prieli would not be forgotten nor erased from the annals of its local history. In 2014, to ensure that his fellow countrymen would never be forgotten by those who betrayed them, David commissioned a magnificent gate to be constructed at the entrance of the cemetery, located prominently in the middle of the town.

  


The fight to abolish anti-Semitism and senseless hatred is an American fight, not just that of the Jewish people.
David’s passion is a living Yarzheit candle, memorializing Latvian Holocaust victims and honoring her survivors so they will never be forgotten. He continues to educate thousands around the world, especially young people about tolerance and senseless hatred.  

In 2016, Nora Šņepste, Headmistress of the First Preili Secondary school, Head of Preili County Board of Education’s History and Social Science Teachers’ Methodical Association stated, “David Zilberman’s… active work and his contributions to the preservation of testimonies of the history of the Second World War in Latvia, to the shaping of the understanding of social and historical memory, as well as renovation and creation of memorial places have been of the utmost significance...not only promoting a united society through education, but also for creating an inclusive, safe and open society in Latvia... David Zilberman’s creative and social activities constitute a real example of what an individual person can do to make the world a better place, to promote mutual understanding between people and to preserve historical memory.”

David has written several books about the Holocaust which are distributed throughout the education system in Latvia.

  

Through David, I believe we find the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people, who in spite of their soul-crushing persecution throughout Jewish history, have, like the phoenix rising up from the ashes, survived and thrived. His strength of character and fortitude to stand up to the enemy makes him the consummate patriot and an essential part of Jewish history.

David teaches us through his actions that one person, in his conviction to stand up against tyranny and hatred, can affect change through seemingly impossible odds. This, above all, is the message the world needs to hear: Nothing is impossible.

   

President Duda should take his cue from actions like David Silberman and the Latvian nation. He should look to America for guidance of how to admit shame and still be able to grow and prosper. President Duda and the Polish government can still right the wrong by apologizing for their lapse in judgement and allow Poland to grow strong in her vigilant fight for the truth. We must not be misled by nations who would rather place their Holocaust complicity in the basement stacks of history. We must let them know we have not, will not and cannot forget the horrors of the Holocaust. We will not allow the world to be Juden- frei.

The fight to abolish Anti-Semitism and senseless hatred is an American fight, not just that of the Jewish people. Anyone who believes in the American Constitution’s Rule of Law, that firmly establishes America’s true identity and global mission to create a world free from the hate brought on by tyrannical forces, is a true Freedom Fighter.






top