'Polish death camps' fight spills onto pages of The New York Times

Holocaust experts said earlier in August that a Polish bill to jail people who use the term “Polish death camps” was based on a correct demand, but blown out of proportion.

August 23, 2016 17:50
1 minute read.

Survivors of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz arrive to the former camp in Oswiecim.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Polish sensitivity around the extent of its complicity in the Holocaust has reached the headlines once more.

Roger Cohen, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, wrote in an article on Tuesday that "Plenty of Poles collaborated (with the Nazis), but some did not." Cohen used the Jedwabne pogrom to illustrate that in numerous incidents, Polish civilians voluntarily massacred their Jewish neighbors while the country was under Nazi occupation.

The article did not stand uncontested, however. The Auschwitz Museum's official Twitter account rebuked Cohen for his assertion, tweeting that the phrase was "false and unjust."

Cohen responded that "plenty means plenty," and listed more examples of Polish complicity, bringing in research from the US Holocaust Museum to back-up his claim.

Along with the records of atrocities, the 6,600 Polish citizens honored as "Righteous Gentiles" represents the largest contingent of non-Jewish people saving innocents from the Nazis.

Holocaust experts said earlier in August that a Polish bill to punish people who use the term “Polish death camps” was based on a correct demand, but blown out of proportion.

Under the new law, stating "publicly and contrary to the facts" that Poles participated in, or bore any responsibility for, the crimes of the Third Reich, will be punishable by jail time or a fine, the government announced.

Polish-American academic Jan Tomasz Gross, whose work highlights the role some Poles played in the Holocaust, has said that "the current regime in Poland is nationalist, xenophobic, and authoritarian."

Some politicians have been heavily criticized for downplaying the role of Polish citizens in atrocities, such as in Jedwabne.

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