Polish Ambassador to Israel Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska, called on Tuesday for Israelis and Jews around the world to focus less on the atrocities committed in her country by the Germans during the Holocaust, and more on the centuries of Jewish thought and philosophy that once flourished there.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, Magdziak-Miszewska, who sits on the International Auschwitz Council and has a deep affection for her country's Jewish history, said, "When thinking about Poland, I hope Jewish people will remember the entire history of the Jewish people there."
She urged Jews around the world to think back further than the Holocaust and realize the deeper connection and impact Jews had on her country.
Referring to Poland as the "world's biggest Jewish cemetery," the ambassador emphasized that this was not only due to the slaughter of millions of Jewish Poles at the hands of the Nazis or even their fellow countrymen during World War II, but also because of "1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland."
"The Jewish people in Poland created an entire civilization," she said, adding that the establishment of religious and spiritual movements and the creation of political parties and ideologies by Poland's numerous Jewish communities greatly enriched the Eastern European country.
"Relating only to Polish Jews as the victims of the Holocaust is a second humiliation of those people," Magdziak-Miszewska said. "Those people had identities, traditions and a history too."
She said Poland had undergone a process of soul-searching over the past decade regarding its own role in the Nazi's attempts to annihilate Europe's Jews.
"After the fall of communism, not during the first years because people were still traumatized, but after Poland was accepted as a part of NATO and later the EU, people started to re-read the history," the ambassador said. "We were not only ready to talk about our history but also to confront the darkest places of that history."
According to Magdziak-Miszewska, it was the 2001 commemoration of the 1941 Jadwabne massacre, where hundreds of Jews were killed by local Poles, that ignited serious, public soul-searching and discussions among journalists and historians about the role of the Polish people in the Holocaust.
It was about "recognizing that even though the Poles were victims of the Germans, at the same time and in some places they also became the oppressors and the killers of the Jewish people," she said.
An expert in Jewish Polish history, Magdziak-Miszewska said that she is often asked to speak at Israeli schools to present her ideas on the centrality of Poland for the Jewish state, and also to prepare high school students for their trips to her country.
"There are a lot of people here with Polish roots, but it is not the majority. However, our connection is so important," she said. "Not only were Jewish Poles actively involved in establishing the state but also because we were once two people living on the same soil."
Asked whether the rise of a far-Right political movement in Poland would damage this special relationship, the ambassador said: "The connection comes from the people and there is a consensus between political parties that the cooperation with Israel is very important. I believe that these strategic relations with Israel are beyond the internal political fights in Poland."
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