How can we trust Kaminski?
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.