|Author Joel Swanson|
A state-run Polish television network closely linked to President Duda recently claimed that his opponent wants to provide compensation to Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants for property stolen during the war. "Experts are certain," the TV presenter warned. "The stream of money that is flowing from the state budget into the pockets of Polish families will dry up if Trzaskowski, after a potential victory in the presidential election, seeks to satisfy Jewish claims."
President Duda's refusal to acknowledge any Polish complicity in the extermination of Poland's Jews reflects a distinction historian Deborah Lipstadt draws between "hard" and "soft" Holocaust denial. If "hard" denial means openly denying the existence of the gas chambers and death camps, "soft" denial is something harder to identify and, in many ways, more pernicious.
It means blaming the Germans for the murder of every single Jew who died during the war, allowing all other nations to evade responsibility. It means claiming all Poles suffered equally during the German occupation, thereby erasing the specificity of Jewish suffering.
The German occupiers were unable to distinguish between Polish Jews and non-Jews on their own, and so turned to Polish police officers to identify the Jews in their midst. Grabowski concludes that "without the Polish police, the Germans would not have succeeded in their plan."That's the history President Duda does not want Poles to accept, because then they might have to accept responsibility for making restitution today. Far easier to portray the Poles as passive victims of the Germans.
Something similar is happening in the United States, where Vice President Mike Pence recently refused to say "Black lives matter," instead insisting, "all lives matter." Pence's refusal is not actually about affirming the universal value of human life, but about denying that the United States has a long history of anti-Blackness, institutionalized through federal government policy, which requires specifically pro-Black policies to address its effects today.let's condemn Duda's anti-Semitism, and his refusal to accept Polish responsibility for the Holocaust.
Joel Swanson is a contributing columnist for the Forward and a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago, studying modern Jewish intellectual history and the philosophy of religions. Find him on Twitter @jh_swanson.
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Thanks to Hanna for sending this in.