My father, born in 1923 in Warsaw, Poland, where he grew up. His family roots are in the town of Łódź, located in the central part of Poland. My mother, born in 1922, roots are in Riga, then in ‘White Russia’, today the capital and largest city of Latvia. Until WWII began, my mother lived in Vilna.
Vilna of today named Vilnius, located in the southeast part of Lithuania, the capital and the largest city of Lithuania. Prior to World War II, Vilnius was one of the largest Jewish centres in Europe, and Napoleon named it "the Jerusalem of the North" as he was passing through the town in 1812.
I never had grandparents.
My father was a Holocaust escapee; his parents and two brothers were exterminated by the Nazis. In 1951, my father, already living in Israel, found his much older and only sister, Riva, then living in Communist Warsaw, Poland. My newly found aunt made it to Israel to live free and be close to her only living brother. My mother’s parents were sent to the gas chambers at the beginning of the Holocaust. My mother and her sister went through their own Schindler's List story and became ‘Holocaust Survivors’. At the end of WWII, on my father and my mother’s side there were hardly any family members left.
I grew up in a family that did not count a minyan; in Judaism a minyan is a group made up of a minimum of 10 Jewish men who are 13 years or older in order to be able to carry a prayer in public. I grew up in a sad home, a home that could not fathom the pain, the loss the cruelty the living had witnessed.
The Holocaust subject pains me to no end.
In Polish the name is Oświęcim, in German the name is Auschwitz, in Yiddish it is אָשפּיצין Oshpitzin, and all amount to a town in the Lesser Poland, in Polish Małopolska, a province of southern Poland. The semantic makes no difference when in Auschwitz they systematically murdered 1.5 million innocent Jews and the Polish people collaborated with the Nazis in letting the Nazis know who is a Jew and where he/she lives or hides. “The Poles were very savage people and killed plenty of Jews in order to take their homes,” says an Auschwitz survivor. The Polish people know exactly what they did and would like to obviate from the truth. The smelly flames coming from the chimneys burning Jews alive, were in Poland.
In Poland they are attempting to whitewash the truth about Auschwitz.
The lower house of the Polish Parliament voted ‘yay’ to criminalize mentioning Polish crimes during the Holocaust. The bill, which still requires the approval of the upper house, would also make it illegal to use the term 'Polish death camp' anywhere in the world. Mr. Mateusz Morawiecki, the current Polish Prime Minister, said that the slogan camouflaging the crimes taking place in the camp – ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work sets you free) – appeared above the iron gate of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, is not Polish.
The Polish parliament lower house approval of this controversial bill that would forbid any mention of participation of the "Polish nation" in crimes committed during the Holocaust and would also bar use of the term "Polish death camp" to describe the death camps where Jews and others were murdered in Nazi-occupied Poland during the World War II, is nothing but whitewashing responsibility.
So, let us say it loud and clear: when they are attempting to negotiate the memory of the Holocaust, much happened in their country and under the country’s people’s nose, the Polish leaders have put their friendship with Israel at risk.
After the Holocaust, when the Jews wanted to return to their homes in Poland, the police told them: “You won’t sleep here. If you go home, the Poles will kill you.” And many Jews who returned home were murdered. There was the Kielce pogrom and others.
Today Auschwitz is a revolting “tourist attraction“, a tourism industry, that pulls in millions of dollars in revenue to show what the human being is capable doing and to learn from it. But the pathetic human being cannot take the evil out of its genes.
Nowadays, only 70 years after WWII ended and the Holocaust came to a halt – lucky Jews - in Germany, former Nazi Germany, Antisemitism is on a sharp rise, and so it is all over Europe, much of it collaborated with the Nazis. And Antisemitism has not missed its rise in the USA.
And evil allows to not remember that year after year the Arabs and the Palestinian Authority’ team have been murdering Israeli-Jews for the same reason the Nazis murdered Jews - because they are Jews.
Anti-Jew, Jew hatred is the number one element that feeds the evil in the human being.
The truth about Poland
The truth about Poland and the Holocaust, must remain vivid.
Treblinka, constructed as part of Operation Reinhard and operated between July 1942 and October 1943, was located in a forest north-east of Warsaw. During World War II it was an extermination camp, built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland. Between July and September 1942 Warsaw Ghetto liquidation process, German SS and police units, supported by non-German auxiliaries, deported approximately 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka II extermination camp. Approximately 850,000 men, women and children were murdered in Treblinka, including more than 800,000 Jews who were murdered for only one reason — they were Jews. Today, under your feet it feels a city of the dead.
The extermination at Treblinka was overseen by fewer than 30 Germans. Most of the atrocities were committed by a Ukrainian squadron. The prisoners who tried to escape from the trains which led to the camp, were caught and returned by Polish neighbors. Everyone was complicit.
Why most of the concentration camps were set up in Poland? Because the Germans knew that at least some of the local Polish population would cooperate with their evil deeds.
In June 1941, hundreds of Jewish residents of the town of Jedwabne – ‘The Jedwabne pogrom’ was an atrocity committed on July 10, 1941, resulted in the death of at least 340 Polish Jews of all ages, locked in a barn later set on fire - were caught by their Polish neighbors; they were locked in a barn and burned alive. After the war, the Poles tried to claim that the Germans had carried out the massacre, but the Jews who had managed to survive the carnage bore witness to the truth. It was those Poles, now want to wash their hand off their venomous deeds against the Jews, who were the complicit murderers.
The new law that the Polish government is about to pass denies the Polish people’s complicities. “There is no such thing as Polish extermination camps. The camps were German,” the Polish lawmakers have decided on the absurd. Though the death camps, where most of the Polish Jews were murdered, were built by the Germans, they were built on Polish land, with Polish help, in the face of Polish deafening silence.
In Poland, 6,706 people were recognized by Yad Vashem and honored by Israel as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ -Righteous Among the Nations is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis - more than in any other country. Most of these ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ were ordinary Polish people whose conscience wouldn’t allow them to be bystanders. They hid Jews, smuggled Jews away and saved Jewish lives. However, the fact that there were only scarce thousands proves the extent of the complicity and the ‘no hear, no see, no say’ mentality of the majority of Poles.
Jews were not only hidden from the Germans; the Germans did not patrol every town and village. The Jews were hidden from the Poles too, because Poles were informers and murderers.
Three million Polish Jews and another three million Jews from other countries were systematically murdered during the Holocaust years. The Germans managed the extermination and bear the ultimate responsibility but they were not alone; they could not have perpetrated the Holocaust alone.
Anti-Semitism existed across all of Europe before the rise of the Nazis, including in Poland. The 1946 Kielce pogrom ('Bogdan's Journey’ film, Directors Larry Loewinger and Michal Jaskulski -http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5057854/), carried out by Polish soldiers, police officers and Polish civilians, is the proof that anti-Semitism was as strong after the fall of the Nazi regime.
Sadly, these past few days, the response on social media to the criticism of the Polish pending law has been laced with vile anti-Semitism, showing that these sentiments are here to stray, at least for now.
I cannot remove myself from the rage in me for my murdered family. I hope many other Jews – and non-Jews - have not forgotten and will never forget nor forgive. No nation can be expected to forgive and forget the murder of one of three of its members; 6 million Jews, in total, including one and a half million children.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel is entering into negotiations with the Polish government on the infuriating law. This is unacceptable. No way Israel to negotiate about the memory of the Holocaust. There is nothing to negotiate. This crimes, perpetrated against the Jewish nation, were the greatest and the cruelest in human history.
Nowadays, Israel has friendly relations and positive cooperation with democratic Poland. However, when this law reaches the Polish Senate, Polish leaders must know that they are putting this friendship at a great risk. The Jewish nation will not accept the re-writing of agonizing and blood soaked history. The Jewish people will not accept the attempt to avoid responsibility for these crimes against humanity. The dead, from Jewish blood soaked grounds of many Polish cities, call us to REMEMBER!
In Germany, former Nazi Germany, the lack of knowledge about the Holocaust and the lack of empathy for the victims of the Holocaust, remains a serious challenge in German schools. In Europe, as a whole known to be lacking sympathy for Jews, this lack is alike. In a 2016, the Forsa Institute and the Körber Foundation study revealed that 41 percent of German children, over the age of 14, had not even heard of Auschwitz. Is that what Poland wants as well? That Polish children will not know the meaning of Auschwitz?
The Polish law, at present discussed in the Polish Parliament, is very much a behavior consistent with mankind. Dehumanizing others, obviating responsibility lessens one own humanity.