Poland and Memory of the Holocaust
Poland’s recent legislation outlawing linking Poles to Nazi crimes has created quite a stir in Israel. Personally, I have always opposed school ‘Holocaust’ trips to Poland and have written a number of articles on the topic. Perhaps now, after the Polish parliament passed this bill, it will be easier to explain.
The cursed soil of Poland is soaked with Jewish blood – more than any other land. It is no coincidence that the Germans chose Poland as the central site for their death industry. Even after the fall of Nazi Germany, the Poles continued to slaughter the Jews. (The most famous of the post-Holocaust pogroms against Jews was in Kielce. 42 Jews were slaughtered there on July 4th, 1946.)
Yes, there were Righteous Gentiles among the Poles – amazing people who risked their lives in order to hide and save Jews. But they were a drop in the vast sea of hatred – the extraordinary that casts the ordinary in an extremely dubious light.
What is wrong with visiting Poland?
The problem is that the body language of these visits exonerates the Polish nation from its crimes and turns the memory of the Holocaust from a living memory to a meaningless museum memory. The groups from Israel come and go, filing through the death camps, horrified to their very bones. But they have no problem depositing their safety in the hands of the nation that slaughtered them. In other words, the Israeli body language says, “You are not guilty. What we see here belongs to a different era and was perpetrated only by the Germans.”
When we don’t learn from experience and apply that experience to our lives, there is no real memory of the dead. Yes, there is shock and horror in the present. But no memory for the future.
The Holocaust trip to Poland industry and the normalization of relations with the Poles prompted – yes, prompted - the Polish parliament’s decision. In other words, visiting Poland diminishes the memory of the Holocaust.
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