SEVERE WX : Wind Advisory - High Wind Warning - Flash Flood Watch - Flood Watch View Alerts

Poland's Holocaust law should terrify you

When politicians manipulate history for political purposes, we should worry. When they write laws, ordering prison te...

Posted: Feb 6, 2018 9:21 PM
Updated: Feb 6, 2018 9:21 PM

When politicians manipulate history for political purposes, we should worry. When they write laws, ordering prison terms for those who counter their version of history, we should challenge them.

Polish President Andrzej Duda just announced he will sign a controversial bill making it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust. The developments in Poland come at the intersection of two troubling trends taking place in many countries -- the upsurge in Holocaust denialism and the political manipulation of the truth for political purposes.

Poland's bill rises from a legitimate concern. After behaving in largely heroic ways during World War II, Poles are tired of hearing others blame them for the horrors of the Holocaust, some of whose worst chapters took place on their soil. The law aims to defend the "good name of Poland," but instead it criminalizes talk about historical truths.

The Nazis built Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and other death camps there, murdering 3 million Polish Jews. The Poles, whose country suffered horrifically under Nazi occupation, have bristled when hearing people refer to "Polish death camps." Soon using words such as these could land you in jail for three years.

The law will inevitably turn the world's attentions to the fact that even though Poland resisted and fought the Nazis and many Poles risked their lives to help Jews, there were, indeed, Poles who actively helped the Nazis. That is a historical fact, recounted by people who survived the massacres.

Instead of drawing attention to the heroism of the Polish nation, the law will highlight the misdeeds of these individuals. So why would the government make such a foolish, counterproductive move? Because it's good politics at home.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party, a right-wing nationalist party that has steadily eroded democracy in Poland and is turning it into a magnet for xenophobes, has found an issue that resonates across the nation, and is exploiting it to inflame "patriotic" feeling. The more the world complains, the more Poland's ruling party can boast of defending the nation against the world.

The United States has warned Poland of "repercussions" -- or costs to its international relationships -- if it does not reconsider the legislation, and its alliance with Israel -- until now a close friend of Poland's -- is in crisis.

Israel's centrist opposition leader, Yair Lapid, tweeted his condemnation of the proposed law, writing that "hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier." When the Polish Embassy in Israel responded that the law was to "protect truth against such slander," Lapid fired back, "I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don't need Holocaust education from you." The Israeli parliament is considering changing the law banning Holocaust denial to include "denying or minimizing the involvement of the Nazi helpers and collaborators."

Poland's efforts to rewrite history are a new twist on Holocaust denial, which is a perverse maneuver that always has political and ideological objectives but usually hides under the deceptive claims of pursuing historical accuracy.

Denial goes hand in hand with other forms of ideological extremism. Not surprisingly, Holocaust deniers don't hate only Jews; they are also prejudiced against other minorities.

In the United States, a Holocaust denier and brazen anti-Semite is on track to become the Republican nominee for Illinois' 3rd Congressional District. Arthur Jones, a retired insurance salesman, has run for the seat seven times. This time no other Republican is on the ballot. His website describes the "Holocaust racket" as a Jewish scam, uses the Confederate flag as "a symbol of White Pride and White resistance," and his blog blames leftists for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where an admitted neo-Nazi has been charged with murder in the death of Heather Heyer, who was protesting against white supremacists.

Jones' Holocaust denials are built, like all others, on falsehoods. The Holocaust is one of the most thoroughly documented events in history -- with mountains of data, testimony, and artifacts demonstrating beyond question that the Nazis set out to annihilate Europe's Jews, and nearly succeeded, killing 6 million of them, along with tens of thousands of homosexuals, hundreds of thousands of Roma (Gypsies), disabled people and others.

And yet deniers persist.

When Trump became President, many worried about how much he would empower the extreme right. After all, his top aide, Steve Bannon, had boasted of making his website, Breitbart, a platform for the so-called alt-right. Those fears appeared to be borne out after the inauguration, when the White House issued a statement marking Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not even mention Jews or anti-Semitism, instead referring to "innocent people."

Since then, Trump has made something of a course correction. Bannon is out, and this year's statement was what you would expect from a normal presidency.

And yet the disturbing memories of Trump's reluctance to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists at Charlottesville cannot be erased.

His rhetoric may have even empowered true bigots to act on their worst impulses. Anti-Semitic incidents surged in the first year of the Trump presidency. In the seven weeks after Charlottesville alone, the Anti-Defamation League counted more than 200 incidents.

More than 70 years after the end of World War II, the Holocaust remains a testing strip, providing warning signs that should not be ignored, whether in an Eastern European country or a congressional district in Illinois.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 357526

Reported Deaths: 4284
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah55810707
Washington38782324
Marion36837455
Clackamas29779309
Lane27744302
Jackson23059310
Deschutes20336125
Umatilla14492150
Linn12911131
Douglas12118243
Josephine9384196
Yamhill8715113
Klamath8020119
Polk737381
Malheur563677
Benton549431
Coos503794
Columbia382644
Jefferson376052
Lincoln319939
Union319549
Crook291846
Wasco288841
Clatsop244328
Baker203529
Tillamook196932
Hood River192837
Morrow185023
Curry180625
Harney113927
Grant100013
Lake93912
Wallowa68612
Gilliam1544
Sherman1523
Wheeler1121
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4848946

Reported Deaths: 71328
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148303126527
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3666614183
San Bernardino3586775692
Orange3242885562
Sacramento1596362309
Kern1463481648
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921400
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus862991335
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924352
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766787
Lassen754347
San Benito744972
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa133916
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
Out of CA00
Medford
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 52°
Brookings
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Crater Lake
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 52°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 52°
Klamath Falls
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 36°
Wet and very windy weekend in progress
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events