Polish mayor: Difficult to accept ‘Polish death camps’ law

Opposition party member Jacek Jaśkowiak says government taking wrong path.

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February 14, 2018 19:46
3 minute read.
Flag of Poland, variant polish coat of arms.

Flag of Poland, variant polish coat of arms.. (photo credit: OLEK REMESZ/ WIKEPEDIA COMMONS)

Poznan Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak finds the recently adopted law that criminalizes talk of Poles’ complicity in Nazis’ crimes “difficult to accept.”

Jaskowiak, a member of the liberal-conservative opposition party Civic Platform, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday night that Poland is on the wrong path.

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“This is not the way to face the problem,” he said, talking to the Post in Tel Aviv on the sidelines of the 32nd International Mayors Conference, hosted by the American Jewish Congress and the American Council for World Jewry.

It is important “to discover what happened in this horrible time, he said. “In my opinion it was much better the way we began after receiving freedom in the ’90s.”

He said the law was bad for relations with Israel, the US and Ukraine. “In the last 27 years we did a lot to make our [international] relations better,” but in the past two years, the running of international relations deteriorated, the mayor said.

The Civic Platform party came to power in 2007 as the major coalition partner when then-party leader Donald Tusk was elected prime minister. The current ruling right-wing Law and Justice party entered government in 2015.

Jaskowiak said that under Soviet rule, Poles were taught “half-truths.”

“For example, at school I was told we lost in WWII four-five million people in death camps, but nobody told me that some 90% of this was Jewish... now we discovered our history with new books and movies... there weren’t only the heroes, the righteous, there were also some Poles who helped the Nazis.”

Jaskowiak said it is better to face the past than to introduce legislation that forbids and penalizes certain research and points of view.

While the dominant voice emerging from Poland in recent weeks defends the law, Jaskowiak noted that “not everyone is happy with this change.” His party came out against the law, and he cites a letter signed by intellectuals and artists who also opposed it. “It’s not one point of view,” he emphasized.

He disagrees, however, with the characterization of the law as “Holocaust denial,” saying that this is something “completely different.”

AJCongress president and American Council for World Jewry chairman Jack Rosen, who spoke to the Post alongside the Poznan mayor, however, thinks it is exactly that.

Rosen was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany, the son of Polish parents, his father an Auschwitz survivor.
“The subject is dear to me,” Rosen said.

"The stories from my parents, especially in those years, are vivid in my mind, and certainly not all Polish people were complicit in atrocities,” he said, adding that while there are many Poles who helped Jews, “there are too many stories of those who were complicit and worked with the Nazis closely.

“I don’t differentiate between the Holocaust and those who were complicit in killing people,” Rosen said.

“I think it’s unfortunate that Poland passed the law. It puts them in the same team as Iran and other Islamic terror states and the alt-right in the US and Holocaust deniers. Seventy-one years after the Holocaust, for a nation like Poland to do that is a disgrace,” he said, describing the law as an effort to erase history, and a “stain” on the country.

“Poland is too good a country to put their citizens under that...,” Rosen said, warning that the law empowers the wrong people.

“Hopefully with leaders like the mayor here, who can speak to the subject, that can be overturned,” he said.


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