The Nazi slogan "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free) is pictured at the gates of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017..
(photo credit: AGENCY GAZETA/KUBA OCIEPA/VIA REUTERS)
WARSAW — A Polish historian who said the country’s Nazi invasion was initially not so bad for Jews received a medal from the Polish Minister of National Education “for special merits for education.”
The minister, Anna Zalewska, presented Tomasz Panfil with the honor at a ceremony Oct. 16 in Warsaw.
Panfil, who is responsible for education at the Institute of National Remembrance in Lublin, earlier this month wrote an article in which he stated that “after the aggression of Germany into Poland, the situation of the Jews did not look very bad.”
“Although the [Nazi] occupation authorities took over, they ordered the wearing of armbands with the star of David, charged them heavy taxes, began to designate Jews-only zones only for the Jews,” he wrote, “but at the same time permitted the creation of Judenrat, that is, organs of self-government.”
Panfil was criticized for his statement by the Institute of National Remembrance. Historians of the Holocaust note that the Judenrats were specifically set up to carry out German policy in the newly formed ghettos, where Jews were forbidden to leave under penalty of death.
The Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper this week revealed that in 2014 he issued an expert opinion to a Polish court in which he wrote that the swastika is an ambiguous symbol — not only related to Nazism, but also one that symbolizes happiness in some cultures. He also claimed then that the NSDAP, or the Nazi party, was a leftist party.