Who knew “never again” had an expiry date?
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel has “no tolerance for the distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust”.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” Poland’s deputy ambassador to Israel, Piotr Kozlowski, claims that the bill is not intended to “whitewash history”, and Poland says its intention is merely to indicate that it was not officially involved with the building and running of camps.
However, the complicity of many Poles during the Holocaust has been documented in many books, including the well-known book by Professor Jan Gross titled Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Gross highlights the many times ordinary Polish citizens murdered Jews and blamed it on the Nazis.
We can already see the effects of the proposed bill. On a recent popular Polish TV show, Rafal Aleksander Ziemkiewicz used the bill to mock Israel’s opposition to it. He said because Jews were forced to clear the gas chambers and take bodies to the crematoria – in exchange for a prolonged death, which he does not mention – the camps should be called “Jewish concentration camps”. This ignorance is exactly why this bill is dangerous.
Whether Poland is purposefully forgetting or just saving pride is impossible to tell. It’s a far cry from the formal apology given in 2001 by Poland’s then president, Aleksander Kwasniewski.
If “Never again” becomes “Just wait until they forget”, every minority group is at risk of persecution.
We should oppose this bill and tell the world that “Never again” means “Never again”. The Holocaust was an atrocity which shall never be repeated, but the only way to enforce this is to remember.
Poland must make changes to this bill, or at least hold a day of learning in which Polish citizens can study the Holocaust and learn about the complicity. As Lemony Snicket puts it: “Those unable to catalogue the past are doomed to repeat it.”
We have a choice: forget and “get on with it”; or remember the painful times and embrace our hardships, ensuring no one else will ever have to experience a holocaust. I say remember; I say embrace; I say never again.