Dear Mr Kovensky,
In your article entitled Honest History: Ukrainians today still struggle with memory of Holocaust, published on https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/ukrainians-today-still-struggle-memory-holocaust.html, and on page 3 of the Kyiv Post Issue 16, published on 20 April 2018, you made the erroneous statement that, in addition to German and Ukrainian troops, there were some unidentified Polish units taking part in the Holocaust in Ukraine and shooting local civilians. Your exact words were as follows. “Jews were taken out of their homes and beaten in the streets. Thousands were shot by German, Polish and Ukrainian killing squads, with OUN members taking part, according to eyewitness accounts”. To support your claim, immediately after it you quote an out-of-context account of a survivor of those events, which, however, does not confirm your accusations against the Poles.
This statement is untrue and defamatory in relation to the Polish State and the Polish people.
Poles did not take part in the extermination of Lviv Jews. In fact, the Poles were the first victims of the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian systems, and were the only nation in Europe which did not collaborate with either of those. What makes your accusations even more unfair is that you fail to mention in your article the mass murders committed by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) against Polish civilians in Volhynia and Eastern Lesser Poland, which took the lives of some 100,000 Poles, including women, children, and older people.
Therefore, to accuse the Polish people of participating in the Holocaust is to turn the victim into the oppressor, and to distort history. For this reason, we demand that you remove this untrue content from your website, and that you publish an apology, and place the following correction, including in the paper edition of the Kyiv Post on the same page:
“In Issue 16 of the Kyiv Post, published on 20 April 2018, I made an untrue claim about the participation of Polish units in the pogrom of Lviv Jews. Polish troops did not take part in the Holocaust. I sincerely apoloise for this error.”
Chairman of the Polish League Against Defamation
27 September 2018
His Holiness Pope Francis
By hand of His Excellency
Al. Jana Chrystiana Szucha 12
As most of my compatriots certainly did, I followed with great interest the accounts of Your Holiness’s recent visit to Lithuania, a country which is particularly close to Poles, because of our shared history.
Our shared history had its roots in the Christianisation of Lithuania, which occurred in 1386, and was a landmark event for that country. It was closely connected with the marriage between the pagan Lithuanian ruler, Władysław Jagiełło, and Poland’s Christian monarch, Saint Jadwiga. It was thus by the hand of Poland that Lithuania adopted Christ’s teachings, and became part of the Christian civilisation. It was this marriage which bound the two nations into a personal union, based on the same ruler. In 1569 the nations decided to create a real union by establishing a common state ‒ the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (formally the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania), reflecting both a political and a spiritual relationship. This tie was broken by the end of the 18th Century as a result of partitions imposed by the aggressive and absolutist neighbouring countries ‒ Russia, Prussia and Austria. This, in fact, put an end on the existence of the common state of Poles and Lithuanians, as well as other nations (Belarusians, Ukrainians and Jews for whom its land provided shelter) ‒ a state of “Noble’s Democracy.”
Due to the political conditions prevailing in 1918, the Commonwealth did not manage to recover after 120 years of captivity. While Poland was reborn, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania remained divided, most of its parts being controlled by Soviet Russia, the western regions being joined to Poland, and the remaining areas forming the autonomous State of Lithuania. This division was extremely painful, causing much distress to Jerzy Matulewicz, Blessed Bishop of Vilnius, a Lithuanian, a restorer of the Polish Congregation of Marian Fathers, and a zealous patriot, both Lithuanian and Polish.
The Polish-Lithuanian relationship has been shaped by several hundred years of shared history, coupled with scientific and cultural achievements. The two nations were also in a joint struggle against the most outrageous totalitarian systems of the 20th Century, i.e. German Nazism and Soviet Communism.
Bearing this in mind, the statement made by Your Holiness on 26 September 2018, while returning from Your visit to Lithuania, were much to my surprise and disbelief. When addressing Lithuanians, Your Holiness spoke about what they had suffered from the East and the West, stating as follows: “when speaking about your difficult history, we think about the East, but some of your tragic fate also came from the West, the German, the Polish, and mostly from Nazism.”
These words are deeply hurtful to the Polish people whose ancestors co-owned the lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which now belongs to Lithuania, together with Lithuanians, Belarusians and Jews, succeeded in building good relations, and, despite the emerging differences, in acting for the common good, with mutual respect. These words are also hurtful to those Poles whose ancestors popularised education and science, and also cultivated Christianity, imploring the Lady of the Gate of Dawn for intercession. Finally, they are hugely unjust to those whose relatives were brutally murdered by the German and Soviet occupiers.
Unfortunately, our shared history has also seen such cases as the massacre in Ponary (close to Vilnius) where German troops, supported by Ypatingasis būrys, murdered over 100,000 people, including around 80,000 Jews, and nearly 20,000 Poles. The latter group included members of the Polish intelligentsia residing in Lithuania, among whom were outstanding professors at Stefan Batory University. My own aunt miraculously avoided death there.
Nowadays, being mindful of the shared past, sometimes with underlying animosities, we need to rebuild good relations. However, we must do it in the spirit and on the foundations of truth, given especially the challenging geopolitical situation and the numerous threats posed by cultural revolution.
The words which allege that the Poles were jointly responsible for the tragic fate of Lithuania, and put us on a par with Germans and their outrageous crimes, are far from the truth, and seem to mark an attempt at equating the roles of perpetrators and victims. They also seem consistent with an extremely dangerous trend represented by certain environments which are hostile to Poland and which are spreading misinformation, e.g. by making the Poles responsible for someone else’s crimes, with a view to obtaining financial or political benefits.
Counting on your understanding, I would kindly ask you to redress this undoubted harm to the perception of both Poland and the Poles by issuing an appropriate statement. This harm appears even greater, as Your Holiness spoke these words in times of increased unjust attacks on the Catholic Church, while the Polish Nation has for centuries remained faithful to the Holy See.
President of the Good Name Redoubt
The Polish League Against Defamation
Dear Mr Tobin,
The following statement “far from systematically helping the Jews, the Home Army was openly hostile to them.” in your article titled “Must Jews and Poles keep fighting about the Holocaust?” published on the following websites:
is a lie and defamation of the Polish State.
Dissemination of such a thesis without providing evidence is a serious distortion of historical facts.
During the Second World War, Poland was conquered by Germany, and the Polish government was the only one among the occupied countries that did not cooperate with the German regime. There was no peace treaty between Poland and Nazi Germany. There were no institutions representing Polish society and the Polish Nation, which supported the policy of the occupant.
On the contrary. In occupied Poland, the Polish Underground State was established, i.e. the largest resistance movement in Europe with extensive secret political and military structures aimed at fighting the Nazi occupier. Those structures were subordinate to the Polish Government-in-exile (first in France, and later in England). Part of the Polish Underground State was the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), which had about 380,000 soldiers and was the largest underground army in occupied Europe.
The Home Army operated under the conditions of conspiracy under occupation. Due to the circumstances of their activity as well as the difficult conditions of the occupation, Home Army was not able to provide security for people of Polish nationality.
Nevertheless, the Home Army actively participated in the creation of a special, secret organization – Żegota – a Polish underground organization that helped Jews on a mass scale (forging 50-60 thousand IDs, financial benefits, housing and medical treatment, helping children, etc.). It was the only such organization in occupied Europe.
The Home Army executed the death sentences of the Polish Underground State on German collaborators, including those who were denunciating and blackmailing Jews in order to gain material benefits.
The Home Army under the code name „Ghetto Action” supported the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to a large extent, providing arms to the insurgents, carrying out subversive and combat training as well as armed and rescue operations (liberation of Jews from the Gęsiówka concentration camp).
Soldiers of the Home Army carried out attacks on German war criminals responsible for mass murders on the Polish and Jewish population.
The cases of anti-Semitism in the Home Army were a margin ruthlessly condemned and fought, and the executions of the Jewish officers of the Soviet regime after the WWII were acts of self-defense against the new invader, not the result of racial or religious prejudices.
Having that in mind, we demand that you stop distributing lies and slanders against Poland and Poles, remove already committed from all the mentioned media and publish a corrective note and apologies.
Polish League Against Defamation
Dear Mr. Bernard,
In your article entitled “Thoughts on Confederate monuments in Georgia”, published on The Red & Black website, you have used mendacious expressions such as “Polish concentration camps” and “Polish collaborators”. In addition, you have also untruthfully accused the Poles as being responsible for the Holocaust and its atrocities. We would like to point out that the expressions you have used constitute examples of hate speech and anti-Polish sentiments intended to attribute to the Poles responsibility for the crimes they did not commit and to misrepresent the history.
In your article, which deals with historical matters, the reference to Poland is taken completely out of context. In two short sentences you bandy about three obvious slanders, which can be regarded as examples of hate speech against Poland and the Polish people.
Let us remind you the following:
1. The concentration camps established during World War II on the territory of the occupied Poland were not Polish. They were German Nazi concentration camps, with Auschwitz Birkenau being the largest site. As you might know, concentration camps were established by the German Third Reich, and the camp in Auschwitz was a place where initially mainly Poles, and then also Jews, were exterminated. It is especially for this reason that making Poles responsible for the horrors of concentration camps is extremely offensive and highly unfair not only to the Polish people but also to the victims and their families. Haven’t you heard about the ordeals that not only mass-murdered Jews but also Poles had to go through in the camps ran by the degenerate German Nazis? Haven’t you heard about the thousands of men, women, and children subjected to inhuman treatment, tortured in quasi-medical experiments, exploited for forced labor in inhuman conditions; about children murdered by phenol injections made directly into their hearts, or the Catholic priests exterminated on a massive scale?
Let us remind you that these were Polish patriots, such as Jan Karski and Witold Pilecki, who informed the U.S. and other governments about the extent of the German crimes in the occupied Poland. Unfortunately, their reports and pleadings for saving the Jews from the Holocaust did not meet with understanding among the Allies, including the USA. No action was taken even to bomb the railroad tracks used by the Germans to transport Jews from all over Europe to the camps. The American attitude toward the Jewish question at the time can be clearly seen in the story of the liner St. Louis with over 900 Jewish refugees from Germany on board. They were allowed by Hitler to leave the Third Reich but were denied entry into the United States. For most of those people, return to Europe meant death in German extermination camps. You might wish to watch “Voyage of the Damned,” a 1976 film about those events.
2. “Polish collaborators” is an expression that could hardly be further from the truth. Contrary to many European countries, such as France, the Netherlands, and Norway, no collaborationist government was formed in Poland during WWII. Between 1939 and 1945, Polish resistance had to face an incomparably more brutal German occupation than did Western Europe. At that time, the Polish nation as a whole showed clearly anti-German sentiments and was far from supporting the occupier. It should be reminded that there was also another occupier on the territory of pre-War eastern Poland, namely the Soviets. In contrast to the French, Belgian, Norwegian, and Ukrainian SS divisions, in Poland there were no collaborationist military formations. Using the term “collaborators” is exceptionally unjust when referring to the people who actively fought against the German occupier, e.g., during the Warsaw Uprising, and developed the Europe’s largest resistance movement (Armia Krajowa, the Home Army). Comparing the attitudes of demoralized individuals (which in Poland was often the result of the savage occupation) to the attitudes characteristic of the country and nation as a whole (as was largely the case, e.g., in France) and describing both cases with the term “collaborators” is deeply unfair.
3. It is also untrue that it is now illegal in Poland to say that any Pole had anything whatsoever to do with the Holocaust. The amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance (the IPN Act), to which you must be referring, clearly stipulates otherwise. It prohibits any action intended to make the Polish nation jointly responsible for the Holocaust. Such responsibility rests solely on the German people and this has recently been explicitly acknowledged by many prominent German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Given the above explanations and the fact that the sentences you have used are not indispensable in a text about monuments in Georgia, we demand that you remove the offending sentences from your text. An experienced member of the public administration such as yourself should be accurate in the use of language and rely on well-informed sources.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Your text contains slander disseminated by the media, which misrepresent the amendment of the IPN Act. Is this only an example of ignorance or rather of an intentional effort on the part of some groups of people who seek to falsify history to blame Poland—the first and principal victim of WWII—for German crimes?
Let us again make this clear that there were no “Polish concentration camps” or “Polish Collaborators”. We expect you to remove the sentences speaking falsely about Poland and in this way spreading the hate speech.
1. Poland was the first and one of the major victims of World War II.
2. The extermination camps, in which several million people were murdered, were not Polish. These were German camps in Poland occupied by Nazi Germany. The term “Polish death camps” is contradictory to historical facts and grossly unfair to Poland as a victim of Nazi Germany.
3. The Poles were the first to alert European and American leaders about the Holocaust.
4. Poland never collaborated with Nazi Germany. The largest resistance movement in occupied Europe was created in Poland. Moreover, in occupied Europe, Poland was one of the few countries where the Germans introduced and exercised the death penalty for helping Jews.
5. Hundreds of thousands of Poles – at the risk of their own lives – helped Jews survive the war and the Holocaust. Poles make up the largest group among the Righteous Among the Nations, i.e. citizens of various countries who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
6. As was the case in other countries during the war, there were cases of disgraceful behaviour towards Jews in occupied Poland, but this was a small minority compared to the Polish society as a whole. At the same time, there were also instances of disgraceful behaviour by Jews in relation to other Jews and to Poles.
7. During the war, pogroms of the Jewish people were observed in various European cities and were often inspired by Nazi Germans. Along with the Jews, Polish people, notably the intelligentsia and the political, socio-economic and cultural elites, were murdered on a massive scale by the Nazis and by the Soviets.
8. In the post-war period, some attempts were made to falsify the history of the Holocaust, including the attitude of the Poles towards the Jews during the war. In order to prevent this falsification and to protect Poland’s reputation worldwide, in January 2018, the Polish Parliament passed an Act to penalize attributing responsibility for Nazi Germany’s crimes to the Polish state or Polish nation.
9. There are opinions that accusing Poland and Poles of anti-Semitism and complicity in the Holocaust (even if this is false) is a deliberate attempt to facilitate the achievement of specific political and financial goals in relation to Poland.
10. In February 2018, prominent German politicians, including Chancellor Merkel, publicly admitted on several occasions that the full responsibility for the Holocaust lies with Germany.
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