Polish law's next target: Yad Vashem

Top Polish diplomat seeks removal of Yad Vashem text about ‘Polish police’ under Nazis.

JTA, Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Visitors in Yad Vashem
Visitors in Yad Vashem
Eliran Aharon

A top Polish diplomat vowed to “intervene” in having text removed from the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel that speaks of “Polish police” under Nazi occupation.

Jan Dziedziczak, the deputy director of the Polish Foreign Ministry, complained about the text in an interview on Thursday while on a visit in Israel, Radio Maryja reported. The text said “Polish police” guarded the entrance to the Lodz ghetto.

His criticism of the text, which reflects a consensus among historians but which Dziedziczak said suggests Poles were complicit in the Holocaust, comes amid a diplomatic crisis in Israel-Poland relations over Poland’s passing last month of a law that allows a sentence of up to three years in prison for anyone ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich."

International Jewish groups pointed out that the law obfuscates history and may limit research on thousands of Poles who betrayed Jews to the Nazis or killed Jews.

The law's first victim was an Argentinian newspaper.

“When I saw this inscription, I asked for immediate intervention from our diplomatic mission in Israel,” Dziedziczak said. “We will not leave this matter and we will do everything to change this information immediately.” He added that this would be the first of various ”actions to restore the truth.”

The Yad Vashem state museum on its website says that most of the police officers who served before the German occupation of Poland in 1939 complied with the occupiers’ order for them to return to duty under German auspices. By 1943, some 16,000 Polish officers, some of them armed, served under the Germans.

Several historians, including Sylwia Szymańska-Smolkin of the University of Toronto, have studied the Polish police’s role in the Holocaust and specifically in connection with the Lodz ghetto.

It was employed “on a wide scale against the Jewish population,” Yad Vashem wrote, and “had an active role in policing ghettos in occupied Poland and searching for Jews who sought refuge with the local population after escaping from ghettos and camps.” The Polish police demonstrated “absolute devotion” to the Nazi authorities, according to Yad Vashem, “although a handful of cases of assistance to Jews by some officers also occurred.”

In the 1941 Jedwabne massacre, at least 340 Jews were butchered by their Polish neighbors amid a power vacuum following Germany’s invasion into Poland.