The topic is perennial: “The Poles did nothing to stop Hitler”; “The Poles murdered the Jews”; “The Poles were the worst of anti-Semites”; etc. So here is one fast response to all of that.
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shtetl/ –> Marian Marzynski’s documentary on PBS “Frontline”.
The Holocaust may be unique in this overlooked way: it was an event so damning of the character of our species that it has been and may remain visited universally over time. The experience of it has given over to the memory of it. Each soul that visits The Holocaust, and there are many ways now, will experience and respond to it differently.
Compiled by the Polish American Librarians Association, a new list of recommended reading emphasizes books that effectively examine inflammatory questions that may never be fully answered or understood but continue to be asked: Did Poles collaborate with the Germans? Why did Poland have the largest Jewish population of any country in Europe? Why did the West disbelieve information about the death camps that was gathered by the Resistance? Why didn’t more Jews resist? Why was Poland the only country in which the death penalty was imposed for Christians harboring Jews? Why was the response of the Catholic Church so meek? Why, by far, are there more Polish names on the roll at Yad Vashem of Righteous Gentiles who saved Jews than any other nationality?http://palalib.org/collection/poland/ (current)
Three million Poles were also taken by the Holocaust.
And there’s no denying the theft and inhabiting of Jewish property by the Poles.
Nonetheless, lose the black-and-white thinking.
For the energetic, two lesser known proper nouns might be worth a look-up in relation to The Holocaust: “Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter”; “Michael Kellogg” (The Russian Roots of Nazism).
Kellogg’s book: https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article-abstract/111/5/1618/14004
I had left the nouns — Kellogg and Scheubner-Richter — without URLs to encourage readers of the thread to make a little bit of effort to know the true kernel of The Holocaust.
Recommended for viewing: “Image Before My Eyes: A History of Jewish Life in Poland before the Holocaust”.
Addendum in Response to Comment
The Polish experience of the Holocaust had been mixed and not in any small or trivial way. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_crimes_against_the_Polish_nation tells a part of the story of horror for those in whom the Nazis found no value.
Today, it is fashionable in Hungary to put all the blame on the Germans for the murder of nearly 600,000 out of over 800,000 Jews from Greater Hungary during the war. But the German force in Hungary was quite small; the Kommando charged with carrying out the deportations, headed by Adolf Eichmann, numbered only about 150 men.
For more than fifty years, Giacomo Debenedetti’s October 16, 1943 has been considered one of the best and most accurate accounts of the shockingly brief and efficient roundup of more than one thousand Roman Jews from the oldest Jewish community in Europe for the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
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The earliest documentary evidence relating to Jews in Rome is Valerius Maximus’ Factorum ac Dictorum Memorabilium stating that the Praetor Gnaeus Cornelius Hispanus expelled the Chaldaeans, astrologers, and some Jews from Rome in 139 B.C. In 63 B.C. Pompey conquered Jerusalem and brought an unknown number of Jewish prisoners of war to Rome. Trastevere was the chief Jewish quarter: (STET)
There is a brighter side to the story of the Holocaust in Rome though. The Nazis arrested only 1,259 Jews in the October 16 raid. In the following months, they were able to arrest only a few hundred more, even after offering cash rewards. The total number of Roman Jews exterminated was approximately 1,970.20 Over eighty percent of the Roman Jews survived the Holocaust. None were killed before the German occupation. The total number of Italian Jews known to have been killed during the Holocaust is 7,922 out of approximately 40,000. Again, over eighty percent survived.
The Holocaust in Rome: 1943-1944 | REPUBLK – 10/23/2012.
There was no “brighter side to the story” — what if only “1,259” (and “1,970.20” is not an approximation) persons had included your family, friends, associates?
The perhaps inherent youth factor implicit in Daniel T. Murphy’s Masters thesis (1993) may fit with how the Jews of Rome on October 16, 1943 were rounded up by lists developed in accord with Italian racial laws enforced under the fascist government preceding the interim government of Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio, who in his flight from imminent German army occupation would leave the same intact — “Badoglio’s bureaucrats refused to destroy their many lists of Jewish names and addresses” says historian Susan Zuccotti as quoted by translator Estelle Gilson, translator of Debenedetti’s book — for their Nazi successors.
Enriching the experience of reading Giacomo Debenedetti’s gem in Holocaust lore are Estelle Gilson’s introduction plus an end-note, “The Fate of the Roman Jewish Libraries”, and an historic preface by Alberto Moravia.
Contrary to general opinion, Jews are not distrustful by nature. Or to put it more clearly, they are distrustful in the same degree that they are perceptive about small matters, but credulous and disastrously ingenuous when it comes to large ones. In regard to the Germans, they were ingenuous, almost ostentatiously so. There are several possible reasons for this. Convinced by centuries of experience that it is their fate to be treated like dogs, Jews have a desperate need for human sympathy; and to solicit it, they offer it. To trust people, to rely on them, to believe in their promises, is precisely such a proof of sympathy. Will they behave this way with the Germans? Yes, unfortunately. With the Germans there would also come into play the classic Jewish attitude toward authority. Even before the first fall of Jerusalem, authority has exercised absolute, arbitrary, and inscrutable power of life and death over Jews. This has operated in such a way that both in their conscious and unconscious minds authority has assumed the form of an exclusive, jealous, and omnipresent God. To distrust His promises, whether good or bad, is to fall into sin for which sooner or later one will have to pay, even if that sin remains unexpressed, and is only an intention, or a mumbled complaint. And finally, the fundamental idea of Judaism is justice. The mission of the Jews was to bring this idea to Eastern civilization. Renan makes this expressly the theme of his interpretation of the entire history of Israel, including the great eschatological statements, including the Messianic wait, and the promise that on that Day of the Lord, tomorrow or who knows when, He will light His dawn at the height of the millennia precisely to bring back the reign of justice upon this earth.
For these reasons, Rome’s Jews had a certain kind of faith in the Germans . . . .
So sad, so tragic, so horrifying a story as Debenedetti tells continues today in the anti-Semitic / anti-Zionist rants and machinations of political movements as diverse as Arab Baathism and resurgent eastern European nationalism.
Enlarged in scope, the same immense black cloud descends on the Christian west, on the Christian communities of the middle east under assault today by the forces funded along the Muslims Brotherhood and Wahhabi fronts with their black flags flying where once stood crosses, and on Muslim communities worldwide as a red death explodes in unpredictable but numerous roadside and suicide bombings, assassinations, and countless beheading.
Before the onslaughts of al-Qaeda and Company, who is not a Jew?
This blogger, having read this extraordinary book, October 16, 1943 / Eight Jews, is to return to the news of similar persecutions taking place right now worldwide.
Additional and Related Reference
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Published in 1999:
Well, what do you expect, reply the claimants, when so many of these cases refer to stolen assets? “We are not talking about putting a price on those who died, but on what was stolen from them,” declares Elan Steinberg, the executive director of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in New York.
Published today, July 17, 2013:
Holocaust survivors and victims’ heirs have received $1.24 billion from a Swiss fund set up after a scandal over dormant accounts of Jews killed in World War II, a magazine said Monday . . . The banks were accused of keeping money owned by Jews who had hidden funds in secret accounts in neutral Switzerland but then perished in the Holocaust, and of having given heirs the cold shoulder when they tried to track down the money.
I often repeat Hillel the Elder‘s “prime directive” — if I may borrow from Star Trek’s language — as he distilled it from the study of the Torah: “That which is distasteful to thee, do not do to another.”
That one thought, among other of Rabbi Hillel’s many judgments and observations, has provided not only Jews but a vast portion of the modern world with an outlook expressed in contemporary legal philosophy and liberalism. However, there seems to me also a more roughly spoken basis for justice and peace between often adversarial and contentious humans: “Because it could happen to you!”
“Because it could happen to you,” the best law that we may develop between us must serve us both.
There are corollaries, including that ages old punch-the-shoulder game between brothers (“If you hit me, I’ll hit you back twice as hard”).
That one leads to equal bruising and a very doubtful “winner”.
As a language string, “It could happen to you” has a small life online as the title of a movie, also a domestic abuse blog, and a gay rights video produced in relation to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) recently savaged by the U.S. Supreme Court, and as a line in a song sung by Frank Sinatra.
“Because it could happen to you” barely exists at all.
And yet what is our sense of fairness, of justice, if not wrapped around “because it could happen to you” integrated with “because it could happen to me”?
If not immediately involved in a crime as either criminal or victim, we are continuously engaged with the ethical and moral choices available to both. )As an aside, I would note the best storytellers find the twisting moral core of their stories right fast).
Back on beam, Hillel the Elder also observed by way of a question, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, who am I?”
Again, “because it could happen to you” and you / I / we could wake to a world absent of compassion, empathy, measure, and reason.
“Because it could happen to you,” don’t make me wake up in that world, and because it could happen to me, it’s incumbent upon me to see that you not wake up in such a world either.
What Hitler’s poison did to Germans and then what the Nazis did to the Jews and others by way of theft of labor, property, and life has found some justice in reparations, and, however reluctant, Swiss cooperation in the restoration of funds left abandoned by way of Nazi murder has also contributed to justice.
I could end this post with this from The New York Times:
On Thursday, Mr. Kent opened his speech with a quotation from a German poet, Heinrich Heine, who converted to Christianity from Judaism. Mr. Kent drew a parallel, reflecting how the process of working with the former enemy toward a common goal has altered his perception.
“We survivors and the Germans of today are together united,” Mr. Kent said. “Both of us do not want our past to be our children’s future.”
As sweet as sentiment may be and whatever good has come from a necessary and responsible reconciliation, one may wish not to set aside the Roma, who today with the Jews are again in the cross-hairs of a resurgent Hungarian nationalism, nor the Poles who got caught in the Nazi vice — with those in addition to losses, one wonders at the memories left in the forests and carried into the present by the now elderly remnant of World War II.
We have a long way to go, and not necessarily with reparations but with one another and a sturdy enough central concept of justice to serve the coming ages.
With basic Wikipedia references in the area of justice, mention of Lassa Oppenheim (no relation to me, so far as I know), Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, I’ve included a little more in this section that I would usually; however, through the Holocaust story, from its 1930s prelude to its now 2010s epilogue, one may see also a window into a future with an international law and legal structure that better ensures fairness and justice for thee and me — perhaps because we should regard what we do to one another as part and parcel of what we do to ourselves — across the broadest cultural, ethnic, national, religious, and tribal global campus.
On Sept. 20, 1945, three months after the end of World War II, Chaim Weizmann, on behalf of the Jewish Agency, submitted to the governments of the US, USSR, UK, and France, a memorandum demanding reparations, restitution, and indemnification due to the Jewish people from Germany for its involvement in the Holocaust. He appealed to the Allied Powers to include this claim in their own negotiations for reparations with Germany, in view of the “mass murder, the human suffering, the annihilation of spiritual, intellectual, and creative forces, which are without parallel in the history of mankind.”
Wikipedia. “L. F. L. Oppenheim”: “Lassa Francis Lawrence Oppenheim (March 30, 1858 – October 7, 1919) was a renowned German jurist. He is regarded by many as the father of the modern discipline ofinternational law, especially the hard legal positivist school of thought. He inspired Joseph Raz and Prosper Weil.”
The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany(German: Luxemburger Abkommen, Hebrew: הסכם השילומים Heskem HaShillumim) was signed on September 10, 1952, and entered in force on March 27, 1953. According to the Agreement, West Germany was to payIsrael for the slave labor and persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, and to compensate for Jewish property that was stolen by the Nazis.