Posted by & filed under Statements.

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) is deeply concerned that the passing and signing into law in Poland of controversial proposals related to Holocaust education and remembrance is a significant restriction on the free discussion of history.

There are two particular elements to this law. The first is the issue of reference to ‘Polish’ death camps. Of course, this is understandable and most educators and historians would agree with the Polish government that referring to the concentration and extermination camps—which were built and administered by the Nazis—as ‘Polish’ would be ahistorical.

However, the second element to this law is that it obstructs free discussion of the nature and reality of relations between Jews and non-Jewish Poles during the Holocaust. Many Poles hid, helped, and saved the lives of Jews during the Second World War and their names are rightly recorded by Yad Vashem as ‘righteous among the nations.’ However, like as other parts of Europe, many Poles collaborated with the Nazi regime and some Poles were responsible for the capture and deaths of Jews. The village of Markowa is one example cited by Prof Yehuda Bauer, where local Poles sought out, killed, or handed over to the Nazis, Polish Jews. See: https://goo.gl/VYekmH

This is not to condemn or lay the blame on any one nation or people. It is, however, simply a dissemination of history, the free right to which is a prerequisite of modern, democratic society. The Final Solution was perpetrated by the Nazis and by their collaborators, which included some Poles, as well as representatives of many other nations. It is a distortion of history and an assault on memory to prevent this statement being made. At a time of increased Holocaust denial, rising populism and extremism in politics, and the spreading of fake news, it is more important than ever for the people of Europe to be able to engage in remembrance, commemoration, and education of the Holocaust with all its complexities and challenging truths.

It is essential that the Polish government reconsider this development for the sake of history, memory, truth, and the future of European education and remembrance of the Holocaust.