What Mark Zuckerberg Gets Dangerously Wrong about Holocaust Denial

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, recently defended his company’s policy of not removing posts denying the Holocaust, stating, “I don’t think that [the authors are] intentionally getting it wrong; . . . as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. . . . I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if he gets things wrong.’” Regardless of what Facebook’s policies should be, Deborah Lipstadt points to a dangerous flaw in Zuckerberg’s reasoning:

Deniers are a . . . type of neo-Nazi. . . . Wolves in sheep’s clothing, they don’t bother with the physical trappings of Nazism—salutes, songs, and banners—but proclaim themselves “revisionists”—serious scholars who simply wished to correct “mistakes” in the historical record. This is extremism posing as rational discourse. And his statements suggest that Zuckerberg has been duped by them into thinking that they’re any different than someone who proudly wears a swastika. . . .

In 2000, when I was on trial in London for libel, having been sued by David Irving—then one of the world’s leading Holocaust deniers—for having called him a denier in one of my books, my defense team tracked all of his “proofs” back to their sources and found that imbedded in each of his historical claims was a falsification, invention, distortion, change of date, or some other form of untruth. Once these lies were exposed, his argument [that he wrote history in good faith] collapsed. . . .

Holocaust denial is not about history. A form of anti-Semitism, it’s about attacking, discrediting, and demonizing Jews. The deniers’ claims—that the Jews planted evidence, got German prisoners of war to admit falsely to crimes, and forced postwar Germany to shoulder a tremendous financial and moral burden—are predicated on the notion of the mythical power of the Jews, which was extensive enough to realize this vast conspiracy. These assertions rely on classic anti-Semitic tropes, some of which are over 2,000 years old.

Deniers, who today clearly feel more emboldened than ever before, are not the equivalents of flat-earth theorists, nor are they just plain loonies. . . . Their agenda is to reinforce and spread the very hatred that produced the Holocaust.

Source: https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/2018/07/what-mark-zuckerberg-gets-dangerously-wrong-about-holocaust-denial/


Jewish groups decry Facebook CEO’s decision to not delete such posts.


Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California. (photo credit: STEPHEN LAM / REUTERS)

After Jewish groups slammed Mark Zuckerberg over his comments on Holocaust denial, the Facebook CEO somewhat walked back his earlier statement.

“I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he told a reporter from Recode on Wednesday afternoon.

Zuckerberg was doing damage control after a podcast interview he did with the site on Tuesday began picking up steam. In the original interview, Zuckerberg was discussing Facebook’s policy on removing posts from the social media platform for being false.

In explaining why Facebook would choose to “reduce the distribution” of fake or incorrect content, as opposed to deleting it entirely, Zuckerberg brought up the Holocaust.

“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” the Facebook CEO said. “I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

Recode reporter Kara Swisher interrupted to say that they very well might be intentionally getting it wrong. But Zuckerberg added, “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent. I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly… I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.’”

The Facebook founder’s comments drew swift and harsh ire from several Jewish groups. Many focused specifically on Zuckerberg’s intention – which he did not walk back – to not remove such posts from the social media platform.

Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said on Wednesday that Facebook should be taking a more definitive stance.

“Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by antisemites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews,” Greenblatt said. “Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination. ADL will continue to challenge Facebook on this position and call on them to regard Holocaust denial as a violation of their community guidelines.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said that Zuckerberg was completely wrong about Holocaust denial.

“Holocaust deniers only come in two flavors – those who don’t want to believe there was an Auschwitz and those who want to finish the job, like Iran,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center.

“Holocaust denial is the quintessential ‘fake news’… allowing the canard of Holocaust denial to be posted on Facebook, or any other social media platform cannot be justified in the name of ‘free exchange of ideas’ when the idea itself is based on a falsehood.”

Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt told JTA that it is “ludicrous” to claim Holocaust deniers don’t have the intent to deceive.

“Holocaust denial is no different than Sandy Hook mass-killing denial,” she said, referring to conspiracy theories falsely claiming that the 2012 school shooting was a hoax. “It’s not a ‘mistaken’ notion of history. It is a deliberate distortion made in the name of hatred. Simply put: Denial is a form of antisemitism and racism.”

The social media platform said it would only remove content which “is aimed at or going to induce violence.”

In Israel, the government and Facebook have engaged extensively over posts the country believes are incitement and should be removed.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled the “Facebook bill” from the Knesset agenda before it could be passed into law.

The bill, which was intended to require Facebook, Google and other tech giants to remove content that incites terrorism, was deemed to have been written in a much too broad and far-reaching manner.

An edited version of the bill is likely to be brought up again when the Knesset returns in October.


Mark Zuckerberg Thinks Holocaust Denial is OK on Facebook


In an interview with Recode published on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg got into the subject of “fake news.” It didn’t go well.

“As abhorrent as some of this content can be, I do think that it gets down to this principle of giving people a voice,” Zuckerberg said, adding that Facebook’s guidelines of removing something from the platform are “if it’s going to result in real harm, real physical harm, or if you’re attacking individuals, then that content shouldn’t be on the platform.”

From there, the interviewer pushes him, asking, “‘Sandy Hook didn’t happen’ is not a debate. It is false. You can’t just take that down?” Zuckerberg agrees that is false, but pivots to Holocaust deniers. (Guess they fall in the same category as Sandy Hook deniers?) He says, “I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong…”

Pause. Zuckerberg does not think people are “intentionally getting wrong” that the Holocaust didn’t happen!? He thinks these lies should be allowed to remain on Facebook and spread? OY VEY.

As reporter Benjy Sarlin tweeted, “so apparently Mark Zuckerberg is under the impression there’s some good faith debate going on over whether the Holocaust happened?”

Another tweet, from Matt Stoller, points out “So now Mark Zuckerberg is defending Holocaust deniers because they are sincere.”

But stay tuned, because the interview gets worse.

Zuckerberg continues that it is “hard” to “understand the intent” of the Holocaust deniers because “as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly.” (Basically, he’s saying, we should give them the benefit of the doubt because we don’t know what they mean when they say “The Holocaust never happened.”)

Well, Zuck, we’re pretty sure we know what they mean: They intend to deny that the Holocaust ever happened. And you know what else? That lie — a dangerous, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory — shouldn’t be spread on Facebook.

As one historian pointed out on Twitter, “Holocaust denial doesn’t stem from a lack of facts. It’s not an ‘uninformed’ opinion. It is, however, deeply corrosive to society.”

Do better, Facebook.

Source: https://www.kveller.com/mark-zuckerberg-thinks-holocaust-denial-is-ok-on-facebook/?utm_source=kveller_maropost&utm_campaign=kveller&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-5262-185509

Anti-Semitism has resurfaced in Poland because of Holocaust law, Catholic leader says

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Anti-Semitism has again become a problem in Poland because of the Holocaust law passed earlier this year and the subsequent controversy surrounding it, the former Roman Catholic primate there said.

“Old demons began to wake up: the trust of many thousands of people has been strained and the work of many decades has been tarnished,” Henryk Muszynski, archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Gniezno, told the Polish-language Catholic Guide magazine.

The law passed in February made it illegal to blame the Polish nation of crimes that were committed by the Nazis. In June, the parliament made it a civil offense rather than a criminal one.

Muszynski said that Poles are attached to history, but they have “their own, one-sided vision.” He said there were “glorious moments” in the history of Poland, but also “mean and un-Christian” behavior.

The archbishop said Poles are closing themselves off to others and do not have a sufficiently deep identity, hence the fear of those who are “different and foreign.”

“It seems to us that they can threaten us, that they can change and destroy us. That is why we still want to defend ourselves against anyone — so much so that we are ready to create a fictional enemy, who is everyone who thinks differently, who believes differently, who is different from us,” the archbishop said.

“Those who reject today Jews and Muslims, who judge these people, probably never met any Jew or Muslim. The blame for their aggression and fear is usually borne by their environment, in which radical opinions and propaganda dominate, served by some media.”

Source: https://www.jta.org/2018/07/16/news-opinion/anti-semitism-resurfaced-due-polish-holocaust-law-catholic-leader-says?utm_source=JTA%20Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-5198-185509

Nazi-confiscated pen helps ToI track down survivor’s son, rewrite family history

International Tracing Service and Times of Israel journalist jointly find descendants of Istvan Rokza, to restitute his stripped possessions and unearth buried heritage

When Hungarian-Jewish teenager Istvan Rokza arrived at the Neuengamme concentration camp in northern Germany in late 1944, he had very little on him — only 20 pengo (then the Hungarian currency) and a “Tintenkuli,” a black stylograph-type pen. The Nazis confiscated these from Rokza, placing them in an envelope and listing the contents on the outside.

Rokza survived the war, but died in 1996 without ever seeing the money or pen again. Infinitely worse, he was never reunited with his mother Hedwig (Miriam), father Anton (Shlomo) and older brother Gyorgy.

He also never learned their fates. He had heard a rumor that perhaps his brother had returned to Budapest after the war, but for all intents and purposes, Rokza believed he was alone in the world.

Rokza moved on with his life, immigrating to Israel in mid-1949 and rarely speaking of his wartime experiences. However, unbeknownst to the Holocaust survivor, his pen had remained intact in Germany. It was one of thousands of confiscated personal belongings recovered by Allied forces at the Gestapo headquarters in Hamburg, or at the Neuengamme, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps as they liberated Europe. These items were deposited with various archives and restitution organizations in Germany.

Yaron Roksa (left) receives pen that was confiscated from his father by the Nazis from ITS director Floriane Hohenberg, Jaffa, July 3, 2018. (Laura Ben-David/Courtesy of ITS)

This month, 22 years after Rokza’s death, his pen was returned to his family in Israel thanks to the joint efforts of the International Tracing Service (ITS) and this Times of Israel reporter.

In 1963, the German government transferred some 4,500 envelopes containing confiscated items to the ITS, a massive archive containing a staggering amount of material, most of it collected by Allied forces as they liberated Europe, beginning in 1943. Located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, it is a complex of six buildings filled from floor to ceiling with 30 million original documents relating to the fates of 17.5 million victims of Nazi persecution. Since the war — and especially in its immediate aftermath — the institution’s primary purpose has been to trace the fates of these people.

Envelope in which Istvan Rokza’s pen and money were placed at the Neuengamme concentration camp. (Courtesy of ITS)

Between 1963 and 2015, roughly 1,500 items were either successfully returned by ITS directly to owners, or were given to Red Cross societies operating behind the Iron Curtain in hopes that they could help in the effort.

An article I wrote for The Times of Israel last February about ITS’s new #StolenMemory campaign to restitute the remaining 3,000 items led me to play a role in returning Rokza’s pen to his eldest son Yaron and the rest of the large family that Rokza established here in Israel.

“I can’t express what it means to me to have this pen,” Yaron Roksa said as ITS director Floriane Hohenberg handed it to him in an intimate ceremony in the lounge of a hotel in Jaffa on July 3.

According to Hohenberg, 164 of the remaining 3,000 items have been returned since November 2016. Six ITS staff members assigned exclusively to this project continue to work on giving back the remaining objects.

“We have names associated with all the objects, but for 950 of them, we still don’t know the country of origin of the original owner,” Hohenberg said.

Of the thousands of personal effects, only a handful are known to have belonged to Jews. And among those, only Rokza was believed to have ended up in Israel.

International Refugee Organization document stating that Istvan Rokza was at Beth Bialik DP camp in Salzburg, Austria in June 1949 awaiting immigration to Israel. (Courtesy of ITS)

This is where I got involved: Hohenberg recently contacted me and asked me to see if I could find Rokza or his family. There was no confirmation that Rokza had actually immigrated to Israel or remained here. The only thing I had to go on was an International Refugee Organization document from Austria dated June 1949 stating that assistance to Istvan Rokza was being discontinued. The stated reason was “ISR,” which presumably meant that he was poised to immigrate to Israel.

ITS emailed me a file with all the documents they had gathered on Rokza and his Tintenkuli pen. I reviewed the documents carefully and summarized all the relevant information that might help me locate the Holocaust survivor:

  • His name on wartime and post-war records appears as ISTVÁN ROKZA/ ROXA/ ROKSZA (different spellings of the family name).
  • He was born May 10, 1928, in Budapest, Hungary, to parents Anton Roksza and Hedwig Füllöp.
  • He listed on his Displaced Person (DP) registration card that he had been learning the bicycle repair trade in Budapest before being deported.
  • At age 16, he was deported in late 1944 to the Neuengamme concentration camp. He was later transported with other Jewish inmates to Bergen-Belsen, which was liberated on April 15, 1945, by British forces.
  • He was released from the Bergen-Belsen hospital set up by the Allies on July 15, 1945.
  • On July 17, 1945, he was evacuated to Sweden on the “Prins Carl” ship.
  • Documentation from the ADC/Joint shows that he was still in Sweden in November 1947.
  • Documents from June 1949 indicate that he was by that time at the Beth Bialik DP Camp in Sazlburg, Austria and a farm worker (presumably preparing for aliyah to Israel).

Istvan Rokza and his pen appear on a Nazi list of prisoners’ personal effects at the Neuengamme concentration camp. (Courtesy of ITS)

I conducted research and networked with anyone I could think of who could help me, from journalists to historians to genealogists. And this being the age of social media, I also checked Facebook. I even reached out to the Fountain Pen Hospital in New York to learn more about the pen itself.

A contact who used to work at Yad Vashem suggested I inquire at the Museum of Hungarian Speaking Jewry in Safed. Staff there told me that the surname Rokza was very rare among Hungarian Jews and that they were unaware of anyone with it in Israel, which made me suspect that Rokza might have Hebraicized his name. That would obviously make finding him and his descendants a lot harder.

The museum staff did, however, provide me with a page from a document titled, “Counted Remnant: Register of the Jewish Survivors in Budapest,” published by the Hungarian Section of the World Jewish Congress in 1946. Rokza’s older brother Gyorgy appears on the list. It seems that Rokza’s suspicion about his brother’s whereabouts was true.

In the end, an Israeli genealogist named Jules Feldman determined for me that Rokza did make aliyah, and lived out his life in Israel, by looking up genealogical records using Rokza’s birth date and approximate date of immigration. The catch was that there was no Istvan Rokza, only a Yosef Roksa — but my guess, based on identical birth dates, was that this was the same person.

After some trial and error with phone numbers, I eventually reached Yuval Roksa, one of Rokza’s grandsons. He led me to Rokza’s eldest son Yaron, who lives in Kiryat Shemona.

From left: Dan Kabilo, Yaron Roksa, Ravid Kabilo. Jaffa, July 3, 2018. (Laura Ben-David/Courtesy of ITS)

“I was in shock when I got your call,” an emotional Yaron Roksa, 61, told me when we met, along with Hohenberg, on July 3. Roksa also brought along his brother-in-law Dan Kabilo and his nephew Ravid Kabilo.

Roksa said that his father, otherwise a habitual storyteller, had not only refused to speak of his wartime experiences, but also never sought recognition or reparations as a Holocaust survivor because he did not have a number tattooed on his arm.

Hohenberg brought along to the restitution meeting a file with high-resolution copies of all the ITS documents on Rokza and reviewed them with his son. He was surprised to learn even the basics, such as his grandparents names. He also had been unaware that Yosef, who worked in agriculture and as a truck driver until retiring, had ever been called Istvan.

Roksa was surprised to see documents showing that a German lawyer had corresponded with ITS on behalf of Istvan Rokza/Yosef Roksa in 1957 seeking evidence to support a case for reparations.

“I had no idea about this. He certainly never got any money,” Roksa said.

Hohenberg also had documents indicating that Istvan Rokza had been imprisoned in Hungarian labor camps before being transferred to Neuengamme.

“My father was missing the fingers on his right hand. He always said that he lost them when he was pushed into a saw when he was forced to work in carpentry. So this information about the Hungarian labor camps makes sense,” Yaron Roksa said.

The disability never prevented his active father from doing things.

“He wrote with his right hand, and he was athletic. He liked sports like boxing, running and soccer — and he was the Israeli ping pong champion when he was young,” Roksa said.

Roksa said he looked forward to sharing what he has learned about his late father with his 90-year-old mother Sarah, a Romanian Holocaust survivor, and the rest of the family. Yosef Roksa leaves a legacy of five children, 19 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren to date.

The family may be even larger if Gyorgy Rokza or his descendants can be located. Yaron Roksa has asked ITS to search for them.

The pen is being given to grandson Ravid Kabilo, 21, for safe keeping. He said he will frame it and hang it on the wall.

“I am glad we were able to bring some closure to this family. Knowing that the grandson will keep the pen and tell the story is keeping the memory alive for future generations,” Hohenberg said.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/nazi-confiscated-pen-helps-toi-track-down-survivors-son-rewrite-family-history/

Remembering Claude Lanzmann and His On-Screen Portrayal of the Holocaust

By Henry Gonshak

Claude Lanzmann, whose 1985 documentary Shoah deeply affected the way many saw the destruction of European Jewry, died last week at the age of ninety-two. Henry Gonshak revisits his work:

Shoah is almost unique among Holocaust documentaries in that Lanzmann used no documentary footage, usually gleaned from Nazi archives, or any fictionalized scenes. Instead, the movie is composed exclusively of interviews with those who became entangled, for one reason or another, in the Holocaust: survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators. Lanzmann justified this approach by insisting it was the only way to represent the Holocaust authentically.

After Shoah was released, Lanzmann became a constant critic of the slew of Holocaust films that took more license than he had with the historical record. He attacked Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster Schindler’s List, accusing it of “commodification” of the Holocaust, because Spielberg used professional actors and invented several scenes from whole cloth. Perhaps Lanzmann imposed excessively strict limitations on the boundaries of Holocaust representation. I don’t believe the Holocaust alone must be represented with no degree of artistic latitude—a demand not made of the portrayals of any other genocide. However, without question, Lanzmann’s narrow approach worked brilliantly in Shoah. . . .

Lanzmann’s directorial style eschewed the “fly on the wall” technique employed by many other documentarians, where the director serves purely as witness, taking no active role in the unfolding action. Instead, Lanzmann is a constant presence in his movie, both on and off camera, asking pointed questions that at times verge on badgering his often-fragile subjects. . . .

Not only did Lanzmann interview survivors and witnesses, but he also spoke with perpetrators—another directorial decision that provoked controversy. For example, Lanzmann talked to Franz Suchomel, who had been an SS functionary at Treblinka and after the war was convicted of war crimes and spent six years in a West German prison. . . . Initially reticent, Suchomel became more garrulous as the interview progressed, until by the end he was regaling the director with a camp song composed by the SS. Lanzmann’s interview with Suchomel demonstrates that many perpetrators felt no remorse for their participation in genocide.

Source: https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/2018/07/remembering-claude-lanzmann-and-his-on-screen-portrayal-of-the-holocaust/

Watchdog group: United Nations ignores antisemitism, de-Judaizes Holocaust

The United Nations has failed to seriously combat antisemitism and in some cases has de-Judaized the Holocaust, a Geneva watchdog group said on Monday.

UN Watch made the accusation in a report it presented at a special event at the Knesset.

Israel has long argued that the UN’s treatment of it is tantamount to antisemitism because of the body’s long record of excessively condemning Israeli actions above and beyond those of other nations.

Haley says UN could benefit from fresh set of eyes, calls out anti-Israeli bias at UN, January 19, 2017 (Reuters)

“When it comes to Jews, when it comes to Israelis, the UN has become a hostile and biased body,” said Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid, who chaired the Knesset event. “The organization that is meant to fight antisemitism, which is sworn to fight antisemitism, is guilty of antisemitism itself.”

The UN Watch report, presented by the group’s executive director, Hillel Neuer, said that in addition the UN has done little to tackle antisemitism even though it is tasked with combating worldwide racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

The report lauded some UN actions on antisemitism, including UNESCO’s Holocaust education program and the statements of some UN officials, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

But the bulk of the report protested the failure of UN officials and relevant bodies, including outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, to properly address the problem of antisemitism.

Zeid did not make a “single standalone statement” in reaction to an antisemitic event during his four years in office, UN Watch said.

He also “trivialized and de-Judaized the Holocaust,” the group said.

Among the examples it gave was Zeid’s opening speech to the UNHRC in June 2017, in which he “juxtaposed Hitler’s concentration camps to Palestinian refugee camps.”

The watchdog group added that Zeid “cynically instrumentalized the Holocaust to defend Muslims and criticize Israel, but “has never used the Holocaust to defend Jews against modern antisemitism.”

The General Assembly, the report stated, has passed only two resolutions in the last decade that addressed antisemitism as part of a larger text that also included Christianophobia and Islamophobia.

The report noted that the General Assembly had, however, held its first ever informal meeting on antisemitism in January 2015. Since 2014 it has also condemned Holocaust denial.

The UNHRC and the UNGA should receive annual reports on antisemitism, UN Watch said.

“We call on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to acknowledge the demonstrable failure of the world body when it comes to antisemitism, and to set forth an action plan that will mobilize key UN stakeholders, and in particular those within its human rights machinery, to exercise their responsibilities to condemn and confront bigotry, hatred or violence targeting Jews worldwide,” UN Watch said.

Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting, “the real issue is what might be called the laundering of the delegitimization of Israel in general and of antisemitism, in particular under universal human values and those human values find expression in the UN and all its institutions.”

Source: https://m.jpost.com/Israel-News/Watchdog-group-United-Nations-ignores-antisemitism-de-Judaizes-Holocaust-562076?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=10-7-2018&utm_content=Watchdog-group-United-Nations-ignores-antisemitism-de-Judaizes-Holocaust-562076

Yad Vashem historian: ‘We can live with’ much of Israel-Poland Shoah declaration

Dina Porat says she took part in talks on a ‘personal’ basis, disputing claim by Netanyahu aides that museum signed off on Holocaust statement

Dina Porat, chief historian of Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, at the museum on May 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The chief historian of Israel’s vaunted Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial defended her role in an Israeli-Polish Holocaust declaration that caused a firestorm in Israel when it was published in major newspapers last week.

In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster — her first public comments since the furor began — Prof. Dina Porat insisted “we can live with” much of the controversial declaration’s claims about the Holocaust.

The declaration was released on June 27 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, as part of an agreement signed by the two that ended the spat between Israel and Poland over a controversial Polish law that criminalized any accusation of the Polish nation being “responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”
The joint declaration was issued minutes after the Polish parliament passed legislation to remove the troubling passages and President Anderzej Duda signed it into law.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during WWII, in Markowa, Poland, on Februay 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

The statement concerned the Holocaust and Poland’s role in it. It declared the term “Polish death camps” to be “blatantly erroneous” and said that the wartime Polish government-in-exile “attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.” It also rejected anti-Semitism and “anti-Polonism.”

Most controversially, it condemned “every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during…World War II,” but noted “heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.”

On Thursday, Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and research center, released a scathing analysis of the amended law and joint statement. The joint declaration issued by Warsaw and Jerusalem “contains highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field,” the institution said in a press release.

The joint declaration caused a political firestorm in Israel last week, after an NGO with links to the Polish government decided to publish its contents, translated into local languages, in newspapers in Israel, Poland, Germany, the United States, and elsewhere.

Throughout the furor, Netanyahu’s chief negotiators in the secret talks with Poland that led to the agreement insisted that Porat, a renowned historian of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, had accompanied the talks throughout the negotiating process, and that “historical statements that appear in the declaration were approved by her.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on June 27, 2018, to discuss Poland’s amended Holocaust Law. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Porat denied that claim on Sunday, saying she had indeed been consulted on the talks, but only on a “voluntary, personal and confidential basis,” and not as a representative of Yad Vashem.

Nor did she “approve” every statement. “No one committed to change every word I asked to be changed,” she said.

The Times of Israel reported last week that Porat did not see the final draft of the statement before it was made public. But, she insisted on Sunday, the text nevertheless reflected a legitimate demand by the Poles.

“I don’t think you can accuse the entire Polish nation of persistently targeting [Jews] in a systematic way” during the Holocaust, she said. “The Poles really were victims” of the Nazis as well.

She said she accepted the criticism that the statement included language that appeared to magnify Polish aid to Jews while seeming to minimize the complicity of Poles in the Nazi persecution.

“They don’t want their crimes to be central to their consciousness or identity. They want a different identity,” she said.

Illustrative: Jews digging a trench in which they were later buried after being shot, in Ponary, Poland. (Courtesy of Yad Vashem)

Asked about the declaration’s apparent equating of anti-Semitism and “anti-Polonism,” she tried to offer the Polish view.

“The Poles have protested that we have forgiven the Germans, because of the reparations, and therefore we don’t badmouth the Germans as much as we badmouth the Poles. They claim that Germany bought our forgiveness with money, while they say, ‘We’re a poor people.’” That’s what the Polish side means when it complains of “anti-Polonism,” she said.

In the interview, Porat agreed with Yad Vashem’s criticism of one particular sentence in the declaration that has drawn the fiercest opprobrium in Israel. It said: “Some people, regardless of their origin, religion, or worldview, revealed their darkest side at that time.”

Yad Vashem characterized the sentence as an “outrageous insinuation that Jews also revealed ‘their darkest side at that time.’”

It was a “very bad sentence, poorly phrased,” Porat said. Those who revealed their “darkest side,” she insisted, “were Poles and they were Catholics.”

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/yad-vashem-historian-we-can-live-with-israeli-polish-holocaust-declaration/?preview_id=1885506