Anti-Semitism is becoming the law of the land in Poland

By Dow Marmur

Jerusalem (Feb 12, 2018) – Soon after returning from our latest trip to Poland, when my wife and I took our younger grandchildren and their parents to show them our roots in the country, I published a column in the Toronto Star (Celebrating Judaism in today’s Poland) in which I suggested that the attitude of Poles to Jews has changed in the last half-century. (I cited a leading Polish-Jewish exponent, Professor Stanislaw Krajewski, in support.) I wrote inter alia:

Poles are well aware of their country’s Jewish past. Many feel that the destruction has deprived Poland of a limb and left it with phantom pains. — Nowadays many Poles speak with respect and appreciation of the Jews and their contribution to the history of Poland. The new Jewish Museum in Warsaw reflects and celebrates it.

Some of the few Jewish readers of the paper – especially if they or their parents came from Poland – weren’t happy with what they read. In view of what has happened since, I wonder if they were right. The new law in Poland that criminalizes references to incontrovertible facts about Poles being involved in the killing of Jews during the Holocaust suggests a reprehensible form of Holocaust denial.

Politicians now in power in Poland are seeking to administer state laws aimed at poisoning the minds of its population and enraging the Jews

The evidence that many Poles were involved in the killing of Jews during and even after the Holocaust is overwhelming. Canadians may be particularly interested to read what Professor Jan Grabowski of the University of Ottawa has written on the subject. The fact that, should he now visit his native country, he may be put on trial for defaming the Polish state and nation is scandalous.

Despite the very strong evidence to the contrary to which I made reference in my column, my anger prompts me to recall the statement by the late Israeli Prime Minster Yitschak Shamir that the Poles get their anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk. I hope he was wrong but I can’t forget his words.

In further support of Shamir’s outrageous generalization we may note that not many days after the scandalous law that denies the Holocaust and punishes those who tell the truth, Polish legislators are now considering a law that would outlaw kosher slaughtering, even though I understand that the country is currently a major exporter of kosher meat. The “benefit” of harming the Jews may outweigh the harm to Poland’s economy – all in the name of animal rights, of course.

Instead of treating the phantom pains, the politicians now in power in Poland are seeking to administer state laws aimed at poisoning the minds of its population and enraging the Jews.

On each of my several visits to Poland over the years I’ve been aware of the gap between the urban intelligentsia and the rural populace. The former is trying to come to terms with Polish history; the latter, often inspired by local Catholic clergy, is determined to perpetuate the myth of the Jews having only themselves to blame for their downfall, which even Polish love and charity couldn’t prevent. In this age of populism, the self-serving myth-makers have got their way.

Will the disease spread also to the Polish diaspora, which is strong in many countries, including Canada? Many years ago a group of us tried to foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation by establishing the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada. It was quite active for some time. In recent years it appears to have gone into hiding. Is this also a reflection that anti-Semitism has had its way by rendering Polish-Jewish cooperation futile also abroad?

Rabbi Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He lives in Jerusalem.

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