How can we trust Kamin­ski?

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - DAVID AARONOVITCH

COULD I have been one of the “Euro­fa­nat­ics” who was only rais­ing the Kamin­ski case (as I did in The Times a fort­night ago) in or­der to em­bar­rass the Con­ser­va­tive Party? The ed­i­tor of the JC would seem to think so, since he ad­mit­ted no other cat­e­gory of critic in his pug­na­cious as­sault on the “smear tac­tic” used against Mr K, who turns out to be a friend of the Jews (or Is­rael, which is held to mean the same thing).

I have no ev­i­dence that Kamin­ski is an an­tisemite but, Lord, he is slip­pery about his past. There’s the on-off sword badge, there’s the unxeno­pho­bic “Poland for the Poles”, and the in­no­cent use of the word ped­aly (or fag­gots) to de­scribe gay peo­ple.

But the big con­tro­versy over Kamin­ski con­cerns his re­ac­tion to the apol­ogy of­fered to the Jewish peo­ple in 2001 by the Pol­ish pres­i­dent on the 60th an­niver­sary of the Jed­wabne mas­sacre. Poland’s In­sti­tute of Na­tional Mem­ory con­cluded in July 2002 that, on July 10 1941, “the in­hab­i­tants of the vil­lages nearby be­gan arriving at Jed­wabne with an in­ten­tion to par­tic­i­pate in a pre­med­i­tated mur­der of the Jewish in­hab­i­tants of that town”; 40 or 50 were killed in the town square and 300 or more men, women and chil­dren were locked in a barn, which was set on fire, and so burned to death.

As Toby Helm of the Ob­server, who was in Jed­wabne in 2001, re­calls, Kamin­ski — then MP for the area — cam­paigned hard against the apol­ogy, though he then de­nied do­ing so. In­ter­viewed by Helm, he couldn’t re­mem­ber whether he’d been in Jed­wabne on the day of the apol­ogy.

Some rec­ol­lec­tion was re­turn­ing by last week. He had op­posed the apol­ogy, but only be­cause “I don’t want to put this sin­gle crime, how­ever shame­ful, on the same level as the Nazi pol­icy to­wards the Jews”. A red her­ring, this, be­cause Pres­i­dent Kwas­niewski never said they were on the same level.

But was the de­sire for in­equiv­a­lence the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion that Kamin­ski used at the time? Not ac­cord­ing to the ed­i­tor of the far-right jour­nal Nasza Pol­ska, who re­called a 2001 in­ter­view for the pa­per in which Kamin­ski ar­gued that the Poles should not apol­o­gise to the Jews un­til the Jews apol­o­gised to the Poles for “col­lab­o­rat­ing” with the Rus­sians, who had just been pushed out of the area. “I never said it. It is ab­so­lutely not true,” Kamin­ski told the Ob­server, which then ob­tained a hard copy of the edi­tion of the pa­per in which he cer­tainly seemed to.

Then he told Martin Bright last week: “If you are ask­ing the Pol­ish na­tion to apol­o­gise… you would re­quire from the whole Jewish na­tion to apol­o­gise for what some Jewish Com­mu­nists did in East­ern Poland.”

Well, yes, some Jews may have col­lab­o­rated with the Sovi­ets. So did some Poles, some Ukraini­ans and some Belorus­sians. In­di­vid­ual Jews had more rea­son to, ini­tially, hav­ing just lived through a pre-war pe­riod of ris­ing of­fi­cial an­tisemitism in Poland, in which ac­tive mea­sures were taken to “solve” the Jewish prob­lem by en­cour­ag­ing em­i­gra­tion to Pales­tine, or to Mada­gas­car, or to An­gola.

De­spite all this, there were 130,000 Jewish sol­diers in the Pol­ish Army in 1939, sev­eral hun­dred of whom were killed by the Sovi­ets in the Katyn mas­sacre. So the ac­cu­sa­tions that Jews qua Jews sup­ported the Rus­sian in­vaders to a level equiv­a­lent to a mas­sacre of the Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion is, at best, an at­tempt to evade re­spon­si­bil­ity and, at worst, an ex­cuse for mass-mur­der.

This may be why the Pol­ish his­to­rian, Marcin Krol, wrote in 2001 that, “I now want to have noth­ing in com­mon, not only with those who com­mit­ted mur­der in Jed­wabne, but also with those who have doubts when it is nec­es­sary to apol­o­gise and bow their heads in shame.” Krol is right and the JC ed­i­tor is wrong.

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