January 27, 2005 - The Toronto Star - response to article


Re: “Search for meaning, 60 years later,” Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (Jan. 27)


It is rather perverse that the focus of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is not the 150,000 Polish prisoners of a camp originally built to destroy Polish elites and resistance, something the media has virtually ignored, but on the Poles’ alleged complicity in the Holocaust. A case in point is  Goldhagen’s article, which assigns to the Poles a prominent role in the murder of millions of Jews in Auschwitz and elsewhere.

Goldhagen seems to forget that, in German eyes, Poland simply did not exist as a state. The Poles had no Quisling government, no autonomy or control over their destiny, no native SS divisions, and no organized collaboration. It thus differed from every other occupied country. It is also a matter of record that Poles did not build or guard the concentration and death camps, but rather were imprisoned there by the hundreds of thousands.

Nor did the Poles set up ghettos, and the Polish police was not used to liquidate any of the large ones. In fact, the Jewish police rounded up 250,000 Jews in Warsaw in the summer of 1942 for deportation to Treblinka. In Western Europe, such tasks were performed by the local police and local officials, whose role was pivotal in the deportations.

Szymon Datner of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw has stated that the Holocaust “cannot be charged against the Poles. It was German work and it was carried out by German hands. The Polish police were employed in a very marginal way, in what I would call keeping order. I must state with all decisiveness that more than 90% of that terrifying, murderous work was carried out by the Germans, with no Polish participation whatsoever.”

Yisrael Gutman, director of historical research at the Yad Vashem Institute, has seconded Datner: “I want to be unequivocal about this. When it is said that Poles supposedly took part in the extermination of the Jews on the side of the Germans, that is not true. It has no foundation in fact. There was no such thing as Poles taking part in the extermination of the Jewish population. There were minor exceptions where the (Polish) ‘Blue’ police and the Jewish police took part in the expulsion.”

This should not be surprising, given that Poland also lost 3 million non-Jewish citizens in the war. It is unfortunate that the Star turned to Goldhagen, who writings have been assailed by leading Holocaust scholars, to write a commentary on this occasion.


Canadian Polish Congress

Toronto District