A letter from Bradley Burston, Haaretz Correspondent, to Poland on a law passed by that country to fine or imprison anyone who accuses it of being complicit in Nazi crimes. Burston says “No One Forgets”. No matter how much revisionism, history stands to tell the tales of the horror suffered under the Third German Reich. A lesson for South Africa….no matter how many times we can be told to move on…history bears the heinous crimes of colonialism and apartheid. And those stories shall be told, over and over, so that, as former President Nelson Mandela said: “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the talk of the world”.
You really sure you want to go down this road?
That law you passed this month. “Whoever accuses … the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years”.
Who do you think you’re fooling?
In country after country, Holocaust survivors make up the stories of those Ukrainians and Lithuanians and Latvians and, Russians and, yes, Poles, who proved themselves more enthusiastic than the Germans in hunting down and slaughtering Jews.
No one forgets a thing. The survivors forgot nothing of what they went through. What was done to them. And by whom.
They’ve told their stories. You can’t legislate away actual memories. This can’t be washed. It doesn’t go away.
You can sentence the truth to three years, or 30 to life. The truth doesn’t change. Because, in the end, nobody forgets anything.
Just as nobody forgets the thousands of Poles who saved Jews during the war, nobody forgets those Polish neighbors who ratted out the Jewish family next door. Or the thousands of Poles who aided the Nazis in other ways.
Your prime minister can say there were Polish perpetrators, just as there were Jewish perpetrators. No one’s fooled, unless you are.
There were survivors who returned home to find that the Polish neighbor who turned them in, had been only too happy to take over the Jewish family’s property and move into their home.
Nobody forgets that after the war, when the few Jews still alive managed to make it home, Poles initiated and carried out murderous pogroms against survivors. No Germans involved.
More than a full year after the war ended, in July 1946, a blood libel rumor spread in the Polish town of Kielce, which before the Holocaust had been home to 24,000 Jews. Fewer than 200 made it back alive.
It took three days for the blood libel to spread, and then a mob of Polish soldiers, police officers and civilians shot or beat to death at least 42 Jews and seriously injured 50 more.
Dear Poland, you really want to go there?
You can pass all the laws you want. You’re fooling yourselves, and only yourselves, if you think this is going to change a thing.
Because nobody forgets anything.