An astonishing Holocaust story I just discovered

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Yesterday I discovered one of the most extraordinary stories I’ve ever encountered. Before I share it with you, I need to set the context.

The Polish Senate passed a bill Thursday making it illegal to claim Poland was complicit in Nazi atrocities committed on Polish soil during World War II. Violations would be punishable by up to three years in prison. The bill awaits a presidential signature to become law; Polish President Andrzej Duda has indicated that he intends to sign it.

There is no question that the Holocaust camps in Poland were operated by the Nazis, not the Poles. It is also true that the Polish people were horrifically victimized by Nazi Germany: at least 1.5 million were deported to Germany for forced labor; hundreds of thousands were imprisoned in concentration camps; at least 1.9 million were killed during the war.

But the new bill criminalizes any claim that the Polish people were in any way complicit in crimes against the Jewish people. What is the verdict of history? How is the question related to the astounding story I’ll tell shortly?

Poland, the Allies, and the Holocaust

Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims, recognizes thousands of Polish people as “Righteous Among the Nations,” non-Jews who “took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust.”

Tragically, there were others who were not righteous. As Jonathan Tobin notes, “Anti-Semitism was endemic in pre-Holocaust Poland. Many, if not most Poles were largely indifferent to the fate of their Jewish compatriots.”

In addition, historian Jan Gross records the massacre of hundreds of Jews by their Polish neighbors in 1941. In 1946, forty-two Jews were killed by police and townspeople in Kielce, Poland.

These atrocities seem to contradict the government’s claim that the Polish people were in no way complicit in persecuting the Jews. My focus, however, is primarily on those in Poland and around the world who were aware of the Holocaust but…

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