Israel sides with the Russian Holocaust narrative over the Polish one as the 75 year anniversary of the end of WWII looms
The events of 75 years ago are as relevant today as they have ever been, as evidenced by the ongoing feud between Russia and Poland as to who between them carries the bigger burden of responsibility for WWII and the Holocaust of European Jewry in general and Polish Jewry in particular.
Poland has been reminding the world that the USSR under Stalin’s leadership entered WWII on the side of the Nazis when it realized its part of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that eliminated Poland as a country by dividing it between Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia. While this is true, there are some other facts that are also true, facts that the Polish side is less willing to recall.
In the 20th century, Poland became an independent polity only in the aftermath of the First World War, a war that destroyed the Russian (via the Bolshevik revolution), and the Austro-Hungarian empires and handed Germany a humiliating defeat. Poland’s independence and territorial integrity were secured by “ironclad” guarantees and defense pacts between it and the European victorious parties to the Great War, France and England. As is well-known, neither of these lifted a finger when Germany broke every obligation it had undertaken in the Versailles agreements and was showing every sign of rearranging the “sacrosanct” post-war borders in its favor starting with those Eastern European countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland that were born out of these agreements.
As Putin pointed out, it was England’s Neville Chamberlain who personally met with the Fuhrer and did such a thorough job of licking his boots and it was none other than the renowned French general Philippe Pétain who surrendered France to Hitler and established over much of it a Nazi lackey state. Stalin, at the very least, kept his nose clean enough to have never met with the German butcher.
Poland, knowing full-well that it would eventually have to defend itself from both Russia and Germany had time between the wars to invest in its military and deter the expected aggression. The much smaller Finland had done just that and managed to defend itself against vastly superior Soviet forces in the winter war of 1939, the same year that Poland surrendered to the Germans and the Russians with nary a shot fired.
Once occupied by the Germans, Poland was indeed powerless, as the Polish government now claims, to stop the Germans from using its territory as the staging ground for the biggest genocide in human history. However it is well documented that regular Poles, with few highly notable and commendable exceptions, gleefully and willingly assisted the Germans in slaughtering the 10% of their population that was Jewish, a population that had lived side by side with them for several centuries.
Stalin’s reckless misreading of Hitler’s intentions and his weakening, for political purposes, of the Soviet military invited or at least advanced German aggression against the USSR. Nevertheless, his subsequent defense of the country against the invasion and his willingness to make it possible for Soviet Jews who so chose to evacuate east of the Volga ahead of the advancing Germans saved millions of Soviet Jews, my family among them.
So on the balance of the horrid scale of the Holocaust Poland and Poles acted in ways that made Jews die and Russia acted in ways that made Jews live. This is why Putin will be among those who will be giving a speech at the Israeli Holocaust memorial institute and museum Yad Va’Shem and Andrzej Duda will not.
Other speakers will include representatives from the Allied Powers of Britain, France, and the United States, as well as Germany. The choice of allowing Germany’s representatives a platform at the event stems from Germany’s acceptance of its role as solely responsible for the Jewish genocide known as the Holocaust and its having taken steps to partially redress this wrong, something that Poland has not done and is yet refusing to do.
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History has a way of being twisted to suit the speaker. I’m not suggesting Baruch Pletner is incorrect, but I am suggesting it is his and only his view of history that is being considered here. As the President of the host country, Poland, I believe that President Duda should be invited and should speak for his country at this memorial which takes place in his country. I don’t agree that any group whoever they may be, can and should chooses to stop the host country’s President from speaking as he sees history. There is nothing to be gained from a poor relationship between Poland and it’s Jewish citizenry.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment- BP
As to Poland being prepared for war you missed that Poland wasn’t a country for 123 years prior to WW1 and that is why they couldn’t be as prepared as Finland. Also Finland had to deal only with Stalin’s purged military while Poland had both that and Hitler to deal with at the same time. As to France it surrendered its Jews to Hitler almost immediately thus acting in a way that made Jews die however is still invited to speak which conflicts with your reasoning. It is illegal in Poland to state that Poland is responsible in any part for the Holocaust because it itself was a victim of it. Polish citizens were the victims, most of them Jewish. Some Polish individuals were complicit including the 30000 Polish Jews who handed over intellectuals to the Nazis. Those complict should be punished as individuals but not the Polish nation. Putin’s father was part of an NKWD death squad that committed ethnic cleansing. Not really helping Jews after all.
Thank you for your comment! As to France, I agree, its behavior in WWII, not only towards Jews, was disgraceful, but it had luck on its side. France had de Gaul who was a PR genius and a more western location in Europe that made it essential to the Allies. As to Poland not being an independent polity for over a century and thus not ready to defend itself when it needed to, coming from Israel, which had no independence for about 20 centuries and still managed to somehow, though barely defend itself in 1948, I am less convinced. This argument is not new and both sides have important points to make, so it will continue. – BP
Don’t know why France, which willingly gathered up Jews to hand over to the gestapo, will be permitted to speak, or Britain, which refused to permit Jews to emigrate to Palestine after removing 3/4 of the Mandate lands to arabs, either.