How could the Holocaust have happened? Let Prof. Michman ask in Berlin

“We reject attempts to distort history and denigrate the names of serious scholars. Ideologically driven attacks on Prof. Engelking are in fact attacks on all open-minded people who seek an explanation of how the Holocaust could have happened in the first place, in order to explore the painful aspects of human history as much as possible in balanced way” – wrote the head of the Yad Vashem Institute, Prof. Dan Michman, quoted by numerous media in Poland. Did he not know how the Holocaust could have happened? Maybe he would ask the Germans about it?

When it comes to attempts to distort history, we have been dealing with them for years in the form of efforts by certain circles – horror of it also Jewish – to shift the responsibility for the Shoah from the Germans to the Poles. Various manipulation tools are to serve this purpose: from the projection of guilt, through the blurring of responsibility, to crude lies about the alleged guilt of Poles. And it has nothing to do with a historian’s workshop or a scientific debate, because in a scientific way one can discuss facts, not slander. The facts, however, are that Poles were the only ones in Europe who, risking their lives, their families and neighbors, saved Jews from German torturers. Yes. The perpetrators were Germans, not some legendary Nazis. Brutal, merciless, racist Germans, who wanted to give the same fate as the Jews to the Poles. So when the uprising broke out in the Warsaw Ghetto, Poles tried to help as far as possible, very modest, because they were in an occupied country. They humanly sympathized with the murdered Jews and rescued them as best they could: they hid them, provided them with food and weapons, and collaborated with the insurgents. They knew that after the Jews it would be their turn. Warsaw was a special place, because it was here that the Council to Aid Jews “Żegota” operated, so on what basis did prof. Barbara Engelking claim that “Poles have failed”? And on what basis does prof. Dan Michman support her version?

The Catholic Church in Poland was also involved in helping Jews – priests, starting from vicars, through parish priests, and ending with hierarchs, helped. Peasants and city dwellers, old and young, helped. The Institute of National Remembrance has collected extensive source material regarding Polish aid to Jews murdered by the Germans, but some “researchers” of the Holocaust remain silent about it. Yes, there were blackmailers, but Poles punished their countrymen with death for this practice. It was, after all, a small margin, so it is simply impossible to look at the whole nation through its prism. Anyway, while we are talking about such extreme cases, it is worth mentioning what Jewish circles would probably like to forget, namely that some Jews participated in the murder and persecution of their kin, including, above all, the Jewish Order Service. They were partly subordinated to the Judenrats, collaborating with Nazi Germany, Jewish police units inside the ghettos, labor camps and concentration camps, which became famous for their brutality, which in many cases did not protect their members from death at the hands of the Germans. Despite the knowledge of these facts, no Polish historian even thought of looking at the entire Holocaust through the prism of these people, because it would be a distortion of historical reality. However, some of those “historians” who exaggerate the faults of the Poles and blame the sins of a few renegades on the entire nation do not seem to have similar scruples. Just a shame.

One more thing is worth emphasizing. There were no ideologically driven attacks on Prof. Barbara Engelking. There were only justified reactions of indignation to the false, distorted image of the Holocaust presented by her. Appeal of prof. Michman for a balanced discussion should therefore be addressed to prof. Engelking, not her critics. As for the question of how the Holocaust could have happened, let the head of Yad Vashem ask in Berlin – there he will find all the answers. Perhaps, on the occasion, he will be able to persuade the Germans to pay compensation also to those Jewish victims and their families who were of Polish descent, because the Poles did not receive the compensation due to them.

Anna Wiejak

Skip to content