‘Dif­fi­cult to ac­cept’

Pol­ish mayor ob­jects to ‘death camps law’

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By TA­MARA ZIEVE (Morag Bi­tan)

Poz­nan Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak finds the re­cently adopted law that crim­i­nal­izes talk of Poles’ com­plic­ity in Nazis’ crimes “dif­fi­cult to ac­cept.”

Jaskowiak, a mem­ber of the lib­eral-con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion party Civic Plat­form, told The Jerusalem Post on Tues­day night that Poland is on the wrong path.

“This is not the way to face the prob­lem,” he said, talk­ing to the Post in Tel Aviv on the side­lines of the 32nd In­ter­na­tional May­ors Con­fer­ence, hosted by the Amer­i­can Jewish Congress and the Amer­i­can Coun­cil for World Jewry.

It is im­por­tant “to dis­cover what hap­pened in this hor­ri­ble time, he said. “In my opin­ion it was much bet­ter the way we be­gan af­ter re­ceiv­ing free­dom in the ’90s.”

He said the law was bad for re­la­tions with Is­rael, the US and Ukraine. “In the last 27 years we did a lot to make our [in­ter­na­tional] re­la­tions bet­ter,” but in the past two years, the run­ning of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions de­te­ri­o­rated, the mayor said.

The Civic Plat­form party came to power in 2007 as the ma­jor coali­tion part­ner when then-party leader Don­ald Tusk was elected prime min­is­ter. The cur­rent rul­ing right-wing Law and Jus­tice party en­tered gov­ern­ment in 2015.

Jaskowiak said that un­der Soviet rule, Poles were taught “half-truths.”

“For ex­am­ple, at school I was told we lost in WWII four-five mil­lion peo­ple, but no­body told me that some 90% of this was Jewish... now we dis­cov­ered our his­tory with new books and movies... there weren’t only the he­roes, the right­eous, there were also some Poles who helped the Nazis.”

Jaskowiak said it is bet­ter to face the past than to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion that for­bids and pe­nal­izes cer­tain re­search and points of view.

While the dom­i­nant voice emerg­ing from Poland in re­cent weeks de­fends the law, Jaskowiak noted that “not ev­ery­one is happy with this change.” His party came out against the law, and he cites a let­ter signed by in­tel­lec­tu­als and artists who also op­posed it. “It’s not one point of view,” he em­pha­sized.

He dis­agrees, how­ever, with the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the law as “Holo­caust de­nial,” say­ing that this is some­thing “com­pletely dif­fer­ent.”

AJCongress pres­i­dent and Amer­i­can Coun­cil for World Jewry chair­man Jack Rosen, who spoke to the Post along­side the Poz­nan mayor, how­ever, thinks it is ex­actly that.

Rosen was born in a dis­placed per­sons camp in Ger­many, the son of Pol­ish par­ents, his fa­ther an Auschwitz sur­vivor. “The sub­ject is dear to me,” Rosen said. “The sto­ries from part­ners, es­pe­cially in those years, are vivid in my mind, and cer­tainly not all Pol­ish peo­ple were com­plicit in atroc­i­ties,” he said, adding that while there are many Poles who helped Jews, “there are too many sto­ries of those who were com­plicit and worked with the Nazis closely.

“I don’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the Holo­caust and those who were com­plicit in killing peo­ple,” Rosen said.

“I think it’s un­for­tu­nate that Poland passed the law. It puts them in the same team as Iran and other Is­lamic ter­ror states and the alt-right in the US and Holo­caust de­niers. Seventy-one years af­ter the Holo­caust, for a na­tion like Poland to do that is a dis­grace,” he said, de­scrib­ing the law as an ef­fort to erase his­tory, and a “stain” on the coun­try.

“Poland is too good a coun­try to put their cit­i­zens un­der that...,” Rosen said, warn­ing that the law em­pow­ers the wrong peo­ple.

“Hope­fully with lead­ers like the mayor here, who can speak to the sub­ject, that can be over­turned,” he said.

AMER­I­CAN JEWISH CONGRESS pres­i­dent Jack Rosen (left) and Poz­nan Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak visit Yad Vashem on Mon­day.

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