Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund warned on Tuesday that “regardless of this (Poland's) attempt to obfuscate history, Poland cannot hide from its anti-Semitic past.”
Poland is currently weight controversial new legislation which would criminalize describing Holocaust-era death camps as “Polish”, and prohibit accusations of complicity by Poland with Nazi Germany. The new law would apply both in and out of Poland.
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Poland was home to more than 3 million Jews. Today, there are approximately 4,000 Jews officially registered as living in Poland, but according to experts there are tens of thousands of people throughout the country whose forbears chose to hide their Jewish identities due to the persecution they suffered under Nazism and communism.
In recent years, a growing number of such people, popularly known as the “Hidden Jews of Poland,” have begun to explore their connections to Judaism and the Jewish people – and many have returned to Judaism.
“While it is true that Judaism has witnessed a revival in Poland since the downfall of communism, the fact that thousands of young Poles have parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents who had to hide their Jewish identities for decades is proof that Polish society was permeated with hatred of Jews,” Freund said. “Untold numbers of Polish Jews, acting out of fear, preferred to take the secret of their heritage to their graves rather than to disclose it to their children or grandchildren.“
“Poland’s attempt to rewrite the history of the Holocaust is morally obscene and historically obtuse. There is a reason why the Germans chose to build many of the death camps on Polish soil: they knew that their fiendish actions would meet little in the way of resistance from much of the country’s populace.”
Shavei Israel and its three emissaries to Poland – Rabbi Avi Baumol in Krakow, Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis in Warsaw, and Rabbi David Szychowski in Lodz – reach out to Poles with Jewish roots to help them reconnect to their heritage and strengthen Jewish life there. The organization works in cooperation with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich.