Under Law and Justice party, Poland is becoming a darker place by the day
Op-ed: The newly passed Polish legislation fits into the general trend of the country’s nationalist-Catholic-conservative regime, which is making an effort to completely rewrite the history of the German occupation and the Holocaust in Poland in a variety of ways, while immensely exaggerating the scale of the rescue of Jews by Poles.
The original legislation focused on the use of the phrase “Polish death camps,” an incorrect phrase which had even angered liberal Polish governments. There were no Polish death camps, and Israel makes no use of this wrong phrase.
It’s important to note that this legislation does not reflect an anti-Semitic approach or Holocaust denial. It puts an emphasis on the Holocaust, holding the Nazi Germans exclusively accountable for it.
The legislation, ridiculous in itself, fits into the general trend of the current Polish regime, a nationalist-Catholic-conservative regime, which is making an effort to completely rewrite the history of the German occupation and the Holocaust on Polish soil in a variety of ways, from instructions issued to schoolteachers to dismissing museum directors and holding allegedly scientific conferences praising the rescue of persecuted Jews by Poles, while immensely exaggerating its scale.
Official representatives of the Israeli government and Knesset participated recently in one of these conference in Poland, which was sponsored by a nationalistic Catholic media outlet that was known in the past for its blatant anti-Semitism and has now changed its ways and is trying to appeal to Israelis. The subject of the conference was the Poles’ so-called huge rescue enterprise in the days of the Nazi occupation.
The participants of the conference, which was aimed at institutionalizing these historical lies, were greeted by all leaders of the Polish government, including Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of the nationalistic ruling party, Law and Justice, and they included a distinguished delegation from the State of Israel led by Minister Ayoob Kara. Where was the Foreign Ministry then?
The main point in the new narrative that the ruling party is spreading and fostering—and infusing with all its might into the Polish collective consciousness—is absolving the Polish nation from the accusation of aiding the Nazis by turning Jews in during the years of the German occupation and even directly killing them.
Historians estimate that at 200,000 Jews were turned in to the Nazis. Nothing of the kind took place, the speakers of the current government argue, referring to the accusation as horrible slander that must not be repeated. “The truth is that hundreds of thousands of Jews were saved thanks to the Polish heroism, and whoever says otherwise is not a Polish patriot but a victim of 'guilt education,'" as Kaczyński said.
The legislation, which considers “slandering Poland” a serious criminal offense, is not the only outrageous move. This government has already succeeded in changing the basic laws securing the judiciary’s independence, and it is now subject to politicians. The government is terrorizing free press, silencing its critics, changing election regulations, ignoring the quick expansion of local fascism and putting efforts and money into reinforcing nationalism.
It’s an openly anti-liberal populist government, like the governments in Hungary, the Czech Republic and some of the Baltic countries. As a result, the European Union has been threatening Poland—an EU member—with unprecedented punitive measures.
Poland, under the Law and Justice regime, is becoming a darker place by the day. This affects us not only as Israelis or Jews, but as citizens of the world and supporters of democracy.