US Jewish group pulls 'Polish Holocaust' video after causing outcry

The answer to the ‘Polish Holocaust Bill,’ is not inflammatory, hateful rhetoric such as this but, rather, discussion and dialogue based on facts,” said the executive director of JCC Krakow.

February 22, 2018 13:36
2 minute read.
screenshot from the suspended Ruderman Family Foundation campaign video

screenshot from the suspended Ruderman Family Foundation campaign video. (photo credit: screenshot)

The US-based Ruderman Family Foundation halted a provocative campaign it launched on Wednesday, after its use of the words “Polish Holocaust” drew criticism from Polish and American groups and officials.

“After a hugely successful campaign that went viral internationally and among American Jews and Israelis who have signed the petition – the Foundation was contacted by the Polish Jewish community and because of their concerns for their safety, we decided to halt the campaign,” the Ruderman Family Foundation said just hours after announcing the campaign.

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The campaign was a response to the contentious Polish law, which criminalizes talk of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes, and called on people to sign a petition in favor of suspending US ties with Poland.

The petition is still active under the title: “I am also in favor of suspending relations with Poland until the ‘Polish Holocaust-denial law’ is repealed!”
Ruderman Family Foundation campaign video calling on the US to suspend ties with Poland over controversial bill (Courtesy)

JCC Krakow executive director Jonathan Ornstein called on the foundation to immediately remove the video, saying that the term “Polish Holocaust” was unacceptable. “The answer to the ‘Polish Holocaust Bill,’ which I oppose, is not inflammatory, hateful rhetoric such as this but, rather, discussion and dialogue based on facts,” he said.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) also decried the video. “We have made abundantly clear our opposition to the new legislation,” said AJC CEO David Harris, who has been involved in Polish-Jewish relations for decades. “That said, this video, which I just viewed, is deeply troubling and misguided. Whatever its intentions, it only makes a bad situation worse by sweepingly and inaccurately accusing Poland of waging a ‘Holocaust’ against the Jewish people during the war, and calling on the United States to suspend diplomatic ties with the Central European nation and NATO ally.”

“Let’s be both clear and clear-headed,” continued Harris, who is the son of survivors. “There was a Holocaust. It was conceived, operationalized, and led by Nazi Germany. It was the Third Reich that formulated the plans for the Final Solution. None of that is evident in this video. Yes, there absolutely were other Europeans, including Poles, who, for a variety of reasons, from hatred of Jews to opportunism and greed, committed crimes against the Jewish people. But there were also others, including Poles, who sought to rescue Jews and alert the world to the unfolding Nazi plan.”

The campaign hit a raw nerve in the Polish Jewish community already struggling with fallout from the law.

Polish Jewish organizations published an open statement on Monday, expressing outrage over the “growing wave of intolerance, xenophobia and antisemitism in Poland," since the subject of the “death camps law” came to the foreground of domestic and international politics.

In a statement posted to the website of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, a letter signed by dozens of Polish Jewish representatives said that hate speech had spread from the confines of the Internet to the public sphere.

“We are no longer surprised when members of local councils, parliament and other state officials contribute antisemitic speech to public discourse,” the letter reads. “The number of threats and insults directed toward Poland’s Jewish community is rising.”

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