January 25, 2005 - The Globe and Mail - response to article


The Editor:


Re: ‘Will the world ever learn?’ (Jan. 25, 2005)


Doug Saunders’ article on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz spews some of the most outrageous and obscene charges against Poles.

After neglecting to notice that Auschwitz was originally built by the Germans as a concentration camp to destroy Polish resistance and held 150,000 Polish prisoners, and only later became a death camp for Jews sent there from all over Europe, with the help of the local authorities in those countries, Saunders, incredibly, tries to shift the responsibility for this state of affairs onto the Poles.

This dangerous and vile myth has been exposed authoritatively by numerous Jewish historians, among them Yisrael Gutman, director of historical research at the Yad Vashem Institute, whose comments deserve being quoted:

 “I should like to make two things clear here. First, all accusations against the Poles that they were responsible for what is referred to as the ‘Final Solution’ are not even worth mentioning.  Secondly, there is no validity at all in the contention that…Polish attitudes were the reason for the siting of the death camps in Poland.

“Poland was a completely occupied country. There was a difference in the kind of ‘occupation’ countries underwent in Europe. Each country experienced a different occupation and almost all had a certain amount of autonomy, limited and defined in various ways. This autonomy did not exist in Poland. No one asked the Poles how one should treat the Jews.”

As for the Poles’ alleged silence during the war, historian Walter Laqueur has been equally blunt about the pivotal role played by the Polish underground in transmitting the news of the Holocaust to the West: “The Polish case is very briefly that they did what they could, usually at great risk and in difficult conditions. If the news about the mass murders was not believed abroad this was not the fault of the Poles.”

As for the dearth of Polish rescuers, historian Gunnar Paulsson has established that the 27,000 Jews who went into hiding in Warsaw, a city with fewer than a million Poles, relied on about 50-60,000 people who provided hiding-places and another 20-30,000 who provided other forms of assistance.

Some 6,000 Poles form the largest group of rescuers recognized by Yad Vashem and more than 1,000 Poles were killed in the rescue effort. Saunders, on the other hand, claims that only a “handful” of Poles bothered to help. We are left to assume that Poles also acquiesced in or abetted the murder of two million non-Jewish Poles. Surely your readers deserve better reporting than this.


Canadian Polish Congress

Toronto District