Warning: Any hateful comments from historical revisionists will be deleted and the commenters blacklisted. If you can’t agree to disagree respectfully, you can leave.
Since today marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I wanted to discuss Article 55a of the 2018 amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance–Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation.
Sections 1a and 1b of Article 55 outlaw historical denialism of Nazi and Soviet crimes against Poles, crimes against peace and humanity, war crimes, and political repression. Shoah denial isn’t outright mentioned, but is understood to be included as a criminal offence.
In 2007, an amendment was passed regarding lustrations in Poland; i.e., limiting the participation of former Communists in government, esp. members of the secret police.
It sounds great so far! Many other countries have similar laws.
And then came the infamous 2018 amendment, which has drawn international criticism.
What makes that latest addition so controversial?
The amended Article 55a makes it illegal to honestly discuss the difficult issue of Polish complicity in the Shoah. Article 2a, now null and void, was also criticised for condemning crimes against Polish citizens by Ukrainian nationalists, since most of those Ukrainians were Polish citizens at the time.
Historical consensus agrees:
1. The most Righteous Among the Nations (as per 1 January 2019) are Polish, 6,992 out of 27,362 total. (The Netherlands is #2 with 5,778, France is #3 with 4,099, Ukraine is #4 with 2,634, and Belgium is #5 with 1,751.
2. Poland disappeared from the map during WWII, carved up by Germany and the USSR.
3. There’s a strong case to be made for Poland suffering the most of any occupied nation during WWII.
4. While many local authorities were left in place, Poland was directly governed by Germany instead of a puppet government.
5. Poland was hurt by the postwar borders decided at the Yalta Conference. She lost 20% of her land, and the Polish residents east of the Curzon Line were expelled.
6. The Polish government-in-exile was actively involved in matters regarding their country, and gave the Allies some of the earliest and most accurate reports of the Shoah.
7. Under Lebensraum, 923,000 Poles were expelled to make room for ethnic Germans. Sometimes entire towns were expelled, and everyone was forced to leave most of their belongings behind. Many houses were left with half-eaten meals and unmade beds.
8. The Polish Resistance was very active, and never stopped fighting the enemy in their midst. There were also strong underground rescue efforts.
9. The penalty for being caught helping Jews was death, as compared to the prison terms meted out in most other occupied countries.
10. After the war, the Polish government prosecuted and executed many collaborators and people guilty of crimes against humanity.
11. There was a LOT of anti-Semitism in countries without Jewish emancipation. Interfaith relations in 1940s Europe were a far cry from what they are today, and many survivors say they never felt at home in their own native countries, were afraid of local Gentiles, spoke Yiddish instead of the national language.
12. Many people in Nazi-occupied countries were active collaborators and silent bystanders.
13. The Shoah couldn’t have happened on its tragic scale if not for the above. E.g., the swift, brutal process in Hungary was carried out entirely by native gendarmes. Many people never saw a German till the death trains changed hands in Košice, Slovakia.
14. More than a few people in Poland shouted epithets and made throat-slashing motions as death trains came through.
15. Many people in hiding, and their helpers, were betrayed by locals.
16. During the war, there were pogroms in Jedwabne, Szczuczyn, and Wąsosz, carried out by locals. After the war, there was a pogrom in Kielce.
Under Article 55a, points 11–16 can’t be discussed honestly and openly. History is a dialogue between past and present, not a forced narrative with a political agenda avoiding difficult questions and conclusions.
This has led to people demanding journalists “correct” articles which dare say, e.g., “Auschwitz was in Poland.”
Showing WWII maps with Poland and referring to Poland as simply Poland isn’t a cruel act of Polonophobia or historical ignorance. It’s a geographical reference everyone understands, not an implication Poles created and ran those camps. Likewise, the term “Polish death camps,” used as early as 1944 but now widely rejected as misleading, is in reference to geography, not culpability.
Should all books about the Shoah be rewritten to specify the country as “German-occupied Poland,” even when no one would’ve spoken or thought like that in real life? E.g., “I could tell by the road signs we were heading towards Poland,” “It’s a good thing we’re still in Poland, since the natives might be kinder to us, and we speak the same language.” How many Poles thought of themselves as suddenly really living in Germany?
Also, how could Poland celebrate 100 years of independence in 2018 if they didn’t really exist during WWII? By that logic, 2045 should be their centenary. Are these people saying they accept Germany’s annexation as legal and valid?
Compelled speech hurts everyone. We need simple, immediately-understood words, not hair-splitting, pedantic verbal gymnastics avoiding calling a spade a spade. It’s like TRAs using grotesque terms like “womb havers,” “cervix owners,” and “people who menstruate” instead of “women.” And why use 5-10 extra words when a single one easily suffices?