"The middle-class population in toto has continued to adhere to the ideology of anti-Semitism and rejoices at the Nazi solution to the Jewish problem in Poland...
Polish workers had long before the war grasped the class aspect of anti-Semitism, the power-tool of the native bourgeoisie, and during the war they redoubled their efforts to fight anti-Semitism ... There were only limited possibilities for workers to hide Jews in their homes. Overcrowding in the flats was the greatest obstacle to taking in Jews. In spite of this, many Jews did find shelter in the flats of workers ... It must be stressed that in general Jews dream of getting into the homes of workers, because this guarantees them against blackmail or exploitation by their hosts."
Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War, Emmanuel Ringelblum
Netanyahu has organized a commemoration on January 23 of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Red Army in 1945. He has invited the German, French and Russian leaders to speak but told Polish President Dudas he will not be allowed to address the 45 heads of state assembled in Israel for the event.
The Poles are obviously furious and point out the German and French Vichy collaboration with the Third Reich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact agreeing to the German-Soviet invasion and annexation of Poland between the two powers in September 1939. The Nazis killed six million Poles during WWII, half of them Jewish.
The Israeli Holocaust Commemoration Centre at Yad Vashem has dismissed Poland’s argument that six million citizens perishing at the hands of the Nazis should entitle Poland to speak at the commemoration. It insists the three million Polish Jews are not to be counted as Poles but only as Jews killed for reasons “unrelated to the countries of origin. Hence, the nationalities of the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau have no bearing”. Mormons can retroactively baptise long-deceased ancestors; the Zionist State lays claim to posthumously represent Polish Jews who largely rejected Zionism while they were alive.
The Israeli Government claims the Polish nation is collectively guilty of anti-semitism; the Israeli Foreign Minister in February last year, Yisrael Katz, said that “Poles suckle anti-semitism with their mothers’ milk”. Poland is included in the fundamental axiom of Zionism that all the peoples of the world are eternally and irrevocably anti-semitic.
Yad Vashem writes more sympathetically than Katz: “Facing a ruthless occupation and being engaged in a constant struggle for existence, the Polish public at large paid little attention to the immensely greater distress” of the Jews”. The history of Poland before and during the Nazi Holocaust is distorted by an Israeli political agenda, and the inspiring memory of the Polish labour movement – Jewish and Gentile – who fought the anti-semites is denied.
Exploitation, for current political advantage, of the memory of those murdered by the Nazis is something to which we have become used. Although Netanyahu provoked only ridicule in October 2015 when he insisted a Palestinian rather than Hitler was the main driver of the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jews, he and his ministers continue to seek scapegoats for the Nazi mass killing that further their current political agenda, as well as Zionist dogma. The Israei regime has no more respect for historical truth in Europe than in Palestine.
Things had all been going well before the fight erupted over who is entitled to distort and exploit the Holocaust narrative. Israel had been moving politically closer to the right-wing Visegrad Group - Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia - of ultra-nationalist, Islamophobic governments with substantial anti-semitic elements within their support base. Their politics were so compatible that Netanyahu participated in the Visegrad July 2017 summit in Budapest. He offered to host the following Visegrad summit in Jerusalem in February 2020.
The Israeli offer was accepted and the Visegrad Four might have become the Visegrad Five; not impossible since the four governments had "aligned themselves with Israeli viewpoints on issues such as migration, security, and threat perceptions". Israel is already a full member of UEFA and the Eurovision Song Contest and a virtual member of the EU and NATO (with a permanent office at Brussels HQ)..
The Israeli regime uses its claim to represent the Jewish victims of the Holocaust to solve a problem that will not go away – the popular opinion across the whole EU that Israel is committing crimes against the Palestinian people. If it is able to find political articulation, this stubbornly held opinion can potentially jeopardise the cosy relationships between Israel and political and corporate elites.
The ‘H’ in the IHRA move to silence pro-Palestine voices is part of this effort to delegitimise and even criminalise those who oppose the deliberate massacre of unarmed Palestinian men, women and children, journalists, medic and double amputees.
The same politicians who jeered at Netanyahu’s whitewashing of Hitler’s role in a supposed Palestinian-inspired Holocaust do not oppose the effort to smear lifelong anti-racists as Jew haters, or self-hating Jews. In the UK, France and Germany the political right promote the project, which helps to keep the arms flowing by limiting the influence of those campaigning for Palestinian rights and freedom.
Both Israel and the Polish government are promoting historical distortions. Where Netanyahu catches the entire Polish people in his racist net of collective Polish national guilt, the right wing nationalist Polish parties wish to absolve the entire nation of responsibility. The Polish right wish to deny the history of their political tradition; political Zionism incessantly foments Jewish despair to sustain itself. Both have a common interest in denying the Polish labour movement history of joint struggle against the anti-semites.
To make matters worse Lithuania is now following Poland to pass legislation criminalising any claims that the Lithuanian Government of the time collaborated with the Nazi occupiers, despite the public record that "in the first week of occupation, the Lithuanian government established the first concentration camp and created a battalion that killed Jews. This was the Lithuanian government. And everybody knows it” (Best-selling Lithuanian author Ruta Vangaite)
This poses a problem for Israel’s warm relations with Lithuania, which US Foreign Policy magazine delicately described in 2019 as a country “in the midst of a pro-Zionist rebranding that combines an imperfect public re-examination of the country’s experience in World War II with a heartfelt appreciation for Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Pro-Zionism often goes hand in hand with anti-semitism - the “imperfection” so far glossed over by Netanyahu includes large marches every year honouring Lithuanians who fought in the Waffen SS, Nazi collaborators promoted as national heroes - the country’s military college named for one, statues and street names across the country for others, and criminal charges against octogenarian Jewish citizens who fought the Nazis in Soviet-led partisan bands. Foreign Policy notes that pro-Israel “Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis is seen as a participant in efforts to promote historical narratives that diminish the role of Lithuanians in the Holocaust and glorify Nazi collaborators."
Against such nationalist denials of key aspects of the history of WWII Europe history, we should remember that across inter-war Europe it was the extreme right and sections of the centre right that constituted or allied with the anti-semitic parties; Germany, Austria, France, and Poland are clear examples. The working class parties of the left, on the other hand, fought the anti-Semites in their own interests, as well as in solidarity with the Jews:
Emmanuel Ringelblum wrote Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War during his time in Poland from 1939 until the Nazis captured and killed him in 1944. “The middle-class population in toto has continued to adhere to the ideology of anti-Semitism and rejoices at the Nazi solution to the Jewish problem in Poland“. His bleak anlaysis , however, exempted the Polish labour movement:
Polish workers had long before the war grasped the class aspect of anti-Semitism, the power-tool of the native bourgeoisie, and during the war they redoubled their efforts to fight anti-Semitism ... There were only limited possibilities for workers to hide Jews in their homes. Overcrowding in the flats was the greatest obstacle to taking in Jews. In spite of this, many Jews did find shelter in the flats of workers ... It must be stressed that in general Jews dream of getting into the homes of workers, because this guarantees them against blackmail or exploitation by their hosts.
But the right-wing Polish Government cannot accept this historical reality any more than Netanyahu. The anti-semitism of his ideological forebears needs to be concealed as does the fierce opposition to anti-semitism by the inter-war and wartime Polish left.
Holocaust Memorial Day is also commemorated in the UK, an event initiated by war criminal Tony Blair which encourages learning from the catastrophe, within limits. Particpants are encouraged to discuss certain genocides but not the killings of three million people by the US in Indo-China, Britain’s diplomatic support and military training to assist the genocidal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and definitely no discussion of Gaza as possibly qualifying as a site of genocide. Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer who did precisely that in Scotland in 2010 was condemned by the UK Government (and Jeremy Corbyn apologized eight years later for hosting Hajo in Westminster).
US historian Howard Zinn was once invited to speak at a Holocaust commemoration event. “I spoke that evening, but not about the Holocaust of World War II… I spoke of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of peasants in Guatemala and El Salvador, victims of American policy…It seemed to me that to remember what happened to Jews served no important purpose unless it aroused indignation, anger, action against all atrocities, anywhere in the world.”
Zinn’s point was brutally made by two members of the Board of Trustees of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust , Louise Ellman MP and Harry Grunwald , who spoke at a rally in London in support of Israel's Operation Cast Lead, which involved the mass killing of Palestinians in January 2009. The following year Andrew Stunnell, Tory Minister for communities condemned the talks on Gaza by Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer as “inflammatory and inappropriate”.
The UK Home Office is not alone in declaring some genocides off limits on Holocaust Memorial Day. Some on the left warn selectively against the rise of the far right internationally - in Brazil, Hungary, France, Italy, India, Netherlands, the USA and many other countries. Israel, though, is always left off the list, even though its genocidal violence against the Palestinians is supported by the Visegrad Four and inspires White Supremacists and neo-Nazis from Norway (mass killer), the US (White Zionist), UK and more.
Howard Zinn is right; the Holocaust has to be related to other genocides, the colossal cost of seizing and forcing Africans into forced labour camps in the New World, and the ongoing genocide being committed against the Palestinian people.
Zinn went on to say that “If the Holocaust is to have any meaning, we must transfer our anger to today's brutalities. We must respect the memory of the Jewish Holocaust by refusing to allow atrocities to take place now.”
16 January 2020