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The law on the National Memory Institute (INP), adopted by the Polish Sejm and signed by President Andrzej Duda, has launched a big international scandal. Although the law has not yet been approved by the Constitutional Court of Poland, it caused an earthquake-like reaction of the world community. The document itself consists of three main parts:
- Criminal punishment for denying crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists (Banderites) during the Second World War.
- Criminal punishment for using "Polish death camps" expression, which actually suggests Poland was responsible for the camps where millions of people were killed.
- Criminal punishment for attempts to hold responsible the Polish nation of the crimes against the Jewish population of Poland.
The first point has been opposed only by Ukraine, while all the Western allies of Poland, as well as Israel, went on their hind legs because of the second and especially the third points. The main argument is that the law blocks the possibility of further investigation on the Holocaust in Poland, and also prevents finding the truth about the crimes committed by the Poles against Jews. But earlier, all the western partners of Poland recognized that the expression "Polish death camps" was nonsense, and they were also trying to omit the issue of Polish anti-Semitism. So why did the aggravation happen right now? Apparently, we should talk about a combination of several factors. First, this Polish law was adopted at a very inconvenient moment, when Warsaw’s nationalist policy threatens the unity of the European Union and the West at large. Secondly, from the point of view of the European and American neo-liberals, it is time to put the present Polish government, who violates a number of basic ideological principles of the neo-liberal Western civilization, in his place. These include not only the anti-Semitism issue, but also political correctness, the rights of women and LGBT people, freedom of the press, and multiculturalism.
In addition, a number of observers associate such a violent reaction with the internal political crisis in Israel, where the Netanyahu government is trying to find an external "scapegoat". And, obviously, the "anti-Bandera" part of the law is a pain in the neck of the Ukrainian leadership, which stated that the law of the INP "violates the principles of strategic partnership between the two countries."
All the leading representatives of Europe’s intelligentsia have signed the letters of protest, and the US government has protested as well. In this regard, we should recall that during the visit to Warsaw in May 2012, then-President Barack Obama provoked a diplomatic scandal, mentioning the "Polish death camps". The US State Department had to publicly apologize for this incorrect statement. However, today Western neo-liberals has completely changed their attitude towards Poland. A while back, the European Parliament removed from office its vice-chairman Ryszard Czarnecki - representative of the ruling Polish party "Law and Justice" (PiS). Czarniecki has rudely taken the representative of Polish liberals Rosa Thun down, who criticized the judicial reform in Poland. He called her "szmalcownik," a derogatory term for the Poles who blackmailed Jews, or Poles hiding Jews, during the Nazi German occupation of Poland. In addition, along with the current scandal, Poland is threatened with several EU penalties - for violating the principles of "basic democracy and the rule of law", for rejecting migrants and other misdeeds (from the point of view of neo-liberal ideology). Poland will make "scathing rebuke" to face the other "rebels" in the European Union down, primarily Hungary and all the "Visegrad Four" countries.
The mistaken expression "Polish death camps" has its own prehistory. It was used right after the Second World War in the USA, referring to the geographical location of the concentration camps. Nazi death camps really operated on the territory of Poland – Auschwitz, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Treblinka. Americans could use this expression for simplification (because of their geographical ignorance). But since the mid-1950s, the media by the German special services have been actively using this term, thereby shifting part of the blame for the Holocaust to the Poles. This expression has settled in poorly informed circles, which caused the deserved fury of the Poles. However, such an expression was never allowed in cultural countries like France; the French could only say something like "Nazi concentration camps on the territory of Poland."
However, the real "bomb" in the text of the new Polish law was an item on the denial of the collective or partial responsibility of the Polish nation for the Holocaust. The Polish government claims that the Poles are not responsible for crimes against Jews in Poland: the country was under German occupation, and therefore all crimes of this period, including the genocide of Jews, are exclusively related to Nazi terror. To corroborate its words, the Institute of National Remembrance (INP is the initiator of the current law) cites data according to which there were no Poles in the protection and servicing of concentration camps, these were mostly Ukrainians, Latvians, and Lithuanians. The service of the camp guards and warders also included "Trawniki men" - mobilized mainly in the territory of Western Ukraine soldiers of the Red Army, captured and sent to the service of the Germans. One of the "Trawniki men" was the infamous Ivan Demjanjuk, nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible." "Trawniki men" have distinguished themselves in the course of the ruthless suppression of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. Probably, the Poles did not take part in the auxiliary services and troops because the Germans simply did not trust them. In occupied Europe, only two peoples - the Poles and the Serbs - did not go for extensive cooperation with the Nazi authorities. All the rest (including the French) cannot boast of this. The INP notes that while the Nazis began recruiting local residents throughout occupied Europe, the leadership of the Polish underground resistance issued the strictest order not to cooperate with the German invaders.
Nevertheless, the document issues remain unresolved. And they concern "people's anti-Semitism", which was historically extremely developed in Poland, as well as in Western Ukraine and the Baltics. Numerous anti-Semitic crimes of wartime, including pogroms and the extradition of Jews to the Germans, are connected with this phenomenon. There are numerous cases of robbery of Jewish property, the extradition of Jews who fled from the concentration camps to the German authorities. The Jedwabne pogrom (July 1941) is especially notorious: local Poles killed more than 1,500 Jews. There are other crimes against Jews, which took place in 24 districts of Poland. This conclusion was reached in due time by the Polish government commission, and in 2001 the then Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski brought to the Jewish people an apology for these crimes. However, not everyone in Poland supports this position. Most of Poles believe (according to the survey) that the sufferings of the Polish population during the war have never ceded the sufferings of the Jews. For a long time, the Poles cherish the idea (and it became the basis of national ideology) that the Polish people is a "martyr of history". And external criticism can only strengthen this position.
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