Category Archive: Together

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.”


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.”


Poles launch global drive to promote Holocaust law deal, roiling Israeli critics

Knesset members charge Jerusalem handed Warsaw a PR victory as full-page ads with joint declaration appear in English, Hebrew, German, Spanish and French

A copy of the Polish-Israeli agreement appearing in Yedioth Ahronoth on July 5. 2018. (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

A Polish foundation with ties to the government in Warsaw has been placing full-page ads in newspapers around the world, including in Israel, publicizing the joint statement on the Holocaust issued by Poland and Israel last week, with translations made by the Polish foreign ministry.

On Thursday, a Hebrew version of the document appeared in the Haaretz and Yedioth Aharonoth dailies. The day before, the ads could be found in important newspapers in Germany and the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, in German and English respectively.

The appearance of the ads triggered criticism in Israel, with some people arguing that they were proof the Israeli government, by agreeing to issue the statement, had handed Poland a PR victory in its battle to portray Poles primarily as victims of Nazism rather than accomplices in committing atrocities. Critics say the joint Polish-Israeli agreement downplays the role of many Poles who willingly cooperated with the Nazis.

“This is exactly what I warned Netanyahu of,” opposition MK Yair Lapid tweeted. “One must not conduct negotiations with the Poles. Over the memory of those who perished one doesn’t conduct negotiations.”

Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli said the campaign “to prove that Israel is clearing the Poles of all responsibility is grave and embarrassing.”

Said Shmuli: “This is the height of insult and disgrace, and Holocaust deniers must send a huge bouquet of flowers to the Israeli government and its leader, who put the memory of those who perished up for negotiations and sale.”

Critics charged that the statement was historically inaccurate in comparing anti-Semitism with “anti-Polonism” and that it gave a kosher stamp to the Poles’ skewed narrative of the Shoah.

Leading Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer went as far as calling it “a betrayal of the memory of the Holocaust and the interest of the Jewish people.”

The joint declaration, signed simultaneously on June 27 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, ended a diplomatic standoff over a Polish law that criminalized accusing Poles of complicity in the extermination of Jews during World War II.

The controversial text declared that the term “Polish death camps” is “blatantly erroneous” and 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.”

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.”

Text on a monument to victims of the Holocaust in Ivansk, Poland, referring to Nazi ‘collaborators.’ (Courtesy

The full-time ads reproducing the statement in its entirety are being placed in “the world’s largest daily newspapers,” according to the PKO Foundation, which paid for the ads.

The PKO Foundation is an affiliate of Bank Polski, one of Poland’s leading financial institutions, which has close ties to the government.

It is unclear whether the PKO Foundation placed the ads of its own initiative or whether it did so at the behest of the government.

The PKO Foundation, founded in 2010, “implements numerous initiatives for the public good, including in the field of education, upbringing, social assistance, protection and promotion of health, arts and culture, and environmental protection,” according to its website.

The translations of the document used in the ads — into German, English, Spanish, French and Hebrew — were done by the Polish Foreign Ministry.

The Hebrew translation done in Warsaw differs slightly from the version the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem issued last week. The changes were minor and it was not immediately clear why they had been made.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comments.

An ad with the Israeli-Polish joint declaration on the Holocaust appeared in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, July 4, 2018 (courtesy)

Yaakov Nagel, one of the two Netanyahu confidants who secretly negotiated the agreement with the Polish government, earlier this week firmly rejected any criticism.

“Here is a country that prides itself with having passed a law that they say will restore national honor, and half a year later they cancel it with their tails between their legs,” he said, referring to Poland. “This is an great achievement for the State of Israel.”

Nagel went on, “The criticism drives me crazy. We got an amazing accomplishment. We had a law that everyone said was terrible, and we got rid of it without giving them anything in return. There is nothing wrong with the statement.”

The Poles, too, have expressed satisfaction with the statement.

The influential leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynskiarty, last week said the joint declaration declaration “fully confirms Poland’s position” on Germany bearing the sole responsibility for the Holocaust.

More than 6,800 Poles are recognized as Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives by helping rescue Jews during the Holocaust, the highest number of any nation. However, Poland had by far the largest Jewish community in Europe before the war, only 10 percent of which survived.

At the same time, many Poles were rabidly anti-Semitic and actively collaborated with the Nazis or killed and robbed Jews themselves.


Ghost writer revisits her own amazing Holocaust survival story in Amsterdam

By Cnaan Liphshiz

During World War II, Miriam Dubi-Gazan registered falsely as the daughter of a Nazi collaborator without his knowledge. (Courtesy of Dubi-Gazan)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — As a seasoned ghost writer who specializes in biographies, Miriam Dubi-Gazan says there is no such thing as a boring life story.

Her attention to detail, creativity and editing skills yield satisfying results even for clients whose resumes are not exactly the stuff of spy novels (think retired bankers, plastics manufacturers, midlevel civil servants and family doctors), she says.

But Dubi-Gazan’s own astonishing life story needs none of the tricks of her trade.

Born in 1945 to Jewish parents in a cellar in Amsterdam, where they were hiding from the Nazis, Dubi-Gazan was registered falsely as the daughter of a Nazi collaborator without his knowledge. It was part of a daring deceit by the Nazi’s own brother — a resistance fighter — to keep her alive.

In December, during her first return to her place of birth, Dubi-Gazan, who has lived in Israel since 1962, told JTA that her rescue story demonstrates both Dutch society’s shame and its glory.

At least 75 percent of the country’s Jews were murdered during the Holocaust — the highest death rate in occupied Western Europe. Yet alongside widespread collaboration there were significant acts of disobedience on a scale unmatched by any other country in Western Europe.

The ideological divide between the two men at the center of her own survival story — Simon Dekker, the Nazi collaborator, and his freedom fighter brother, Ewert — is a microcosm of  Dutch society during the occupation.

“It shows you how sharply divided Dutch society was,” Dubi-Gazan, 73, said of the family of the resistance fighters who saved her. “Within the same household you had people working for the Nazis and people who were risking their lives to stop them.”

Miriam Dubi-Gazan, right in first row, poses with classmates at the Rosj Pina Jewish elementary school in Amsterdam, June 25, 1953. (Courtesy of Dubi-Gazan)

In 1941, the Netherlands saw the first mass protests anywhere in Europe over the persecution of Jews.

Following the roundup of 457 Jews by Nazis, hundreds of thousands of laborers answered the resistance call for a general strike that February. Dutch industry ground to a halt for three days. The Germans cracked down on the strikers, killing nine of them and imprisoning hundreds, until the strike was broken by brute force.

Underground, the resistance was busy hiding thousands and helping thousands more to safety.

The Netherlands has 5,669 Righteous Among the Nations — non-Jews recognized and honored by Israel for having risked their lives to save Jews. It’s by far the highest figure in Western Europe and the second highest worldwide, second only to Poland’s 6,863 rescuers.

Yet Dutch police and many civilians unreservedly enlisted to the Nazi project of murdering the Jews of the Netherlands and Europe.

Soon after the Nazis invaded in 1940, men from the group known as the Henneicke Column began hunting Jews for pay. Led by a cabby named Wim Henneicke, some 80 bounty hunters were paid by authorities 5 guldens for every Jew they brought in — the equivalent of a week’s pay for unskilled laborers. The bounty was later raised to 7.5 and then to 40 gulden. This group alone caught thousands of victims.

Anne Frank, the teenager whose diary became one of the world’s best-known testimonials from the Holocaust, may have been betrayed with her family.

Visitors wait to enter the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, March 29, 2008. (Massimo Catarinella/Wikimedia Commons)

In that atmosphere, it was imperative that a baby born at a resistance safe house, like Miriam Dubi-Gazan, have papers. Anyone caught with an undocumented baby risked a Gestapo interrogation that was liable not only to end with the dispatch to Auschwitz of the baby and her parents, but to the exposure of the resistance cell that hid them, she explained.

This made Simon Dekker, the Nazi brother of a resistance fighter, the perfect person to register as the Jewish baby’s father. He would be above suspicion, Dubi-Gazan said.

Last year, Dubi-Gazan returned to the cellar where she was born on Jan Luijken Street, around the corner from the Van Gogh Museum, with a film crew from the Israel Broadcasting Corp. Before going there, she met with Henk and Wisje Dekker, Simon and Ewart’s nonagenarian siblings.

Ewert, her rescuer, died a few years ago, she learned. As did Simon, a former high school teacher who immediately after World War II left the Netherlands amid the authorities’ sweep to catch and punish Nazi collaborators.

In the half-light of an overcast morning, Dubi-Gazan stood in the cellar where her mother gave birth to her in anguished silence, lacking any medical assistance and attended by Miriam’s older brother, who then was 18 months old.

Two months before Miriam was born, her mother narrowly escaped a raid after a pro-Nazi milkman reported the family to the police, she said. As the Nazis banged on the front door, Miriam’s highly pregnant mother jumped with her son over a fence to disappear in the maze of gardens that was the building’s interior yard.

Miriam Dubi-Gazan, left, with her brother in 1945. (Courtesy of Dubi-Gazan)

“I can’t believe my mother lived through all of that,” Dubi-Gazan said in the room, visibly moved. But after a few minutes she was ready to leave.

“I want to get out of here. Let’s go, this is enough now,” she said as she climbed up from the cellar.

After the Holocaust, her traumatized mother had deep emotional issues, Dubi-Gazan said.

“We couldn’t ride on the train growing up — because the trains all went to Auschwitz,” she told JTA.

Living with the trauma of the Holocaust, Dubi-Gazan said she knew she wanted to leave for Israel when she was 5 years old. She attended the Rosj Pina Jewish school in Amsterdam in one of the first classes opened after the Holocaust.

Her class had only seven students — all of them child survivors of the 140,000-member Jewish community that lived in the Netherlands before the war.

Today’s Dutch Jewish community, estimated at 45,000, is heavily concentrated in Amsterdam, where it has several cultural centers and synagogues, as well as an elementary and secondary school. But it has failed to replenish its numbers. Outside Amsterdam, once-prominent synagogues dot the Netherlands, only several of them still functioning as such.

In the southern city of Middelburg, non-Jewish volunteers show the local synagogue to visitors once a week. Up north in Groningen, the synagogue is a museum with a souvenir shop selling wine and kosher products from Israel. And in Deventer in the east, a 207-year-old synagogue is being turned into a restaurant following its sale to a Dutch-Turkish entrepreneur.

“I grew up with a lot of anger toward the Dutch,” said Dubi-Gazan, who has two daughters. “I wasn’t raised to think of this place as home.”

But with time, she said, her attitude softened. She recently honored the Dekker family (“the good side, that is,” she said) by planting a tree in their honor in Israel.

“It’s true that many collaborated. But many non-Jews also suffered, some for helping Jews,” she said. “They went to concentration and labor camps and their children, I’ve come to discover, were scarred by that experience as deeply as I was.”


Krakow’s Jewish community copes with Poland’s controversial Holocaust law

© Alcyone Wemaëre, France 24

Kamilla, who calls herself a Judeophile, studied Judaism and named her daughter Hannah, “like Hannah Arendt”. Why? “I have no idea. I love the Jewish religion,” she says. She is part of the generation that, as schoolchildren visiting Auschwitz, was told the victims were Poles and Russians, but not Jews.

Very critical of a government that “every week finds a new Polish hero” and “opens the floodgates of xenophobia”, Kamilla believes one must be vigilant. She cites Marek Edelman, one of the instigators of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, who said, “Don’t forget that evil can grow bigger.”

This article has been translated from the original in French.


Study says Polish neighbors betrayed many more Jews than previously thought

Polish Jews shown in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(JTA) — According to new research done in Poland, two thirds of the local Jews who hid there from the Nazis did not survive the war, mostly because of the actions of their non-Jewish neighbors.

The figure comes from a two-volume work of 1,600 pages that historians from the Warsaw-based Center for Research on Holocaust of Jews have compiled over the past five years. It covers nine out of Poland’s 13 regions, the Tok FM radio station reported Sunday.

Arriving amid a polarizing debate in Poland over a law that limits rhetoric on Polish complicity in the Holocaust, the study suggests Poles are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths by Jews in the Holocaust — a figure that is significantly higher than previous estimates.

The findings of the research were published earlier this year in a Polish-language book titled “The Fate of the Jews in Selected Regions of Occupied Poland.” They pertain to the fate of more than one million Jews who went underground to avoid being killed in Operation Reinhard — Nazi Germany’s campaign of annihilation of 3.3 million Jews in occupied Poland.

According to Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, no more than 2,500 Jews died at the hands of Poles during the Holocaust or immediately after it. Efraim Zuroff, Eastern Europe director for the Simon Wiesenthal has disputed Schudrich’s estimate: He believes the correct figure is “many thousands” of people, including in at least 15 towns and cities in eastern Poland, where non-Jews butchered their Jewish neighbors.

But if the new study in Poland is correct, then those estimates are just a fraction of a tally of well over half a million Jewish Holocaust victims who died as a result of the actions of non-Jewish Poles.

The issue of Polish complicity in the Holocaust is highly controversial in Poland, where the Nazis killed three million non-Jews in addition to about four million Jews. In January, the right-wing government passed a law criminalizing blaming Poland for Nazi crimes. Protests by Israel, the United States and Jewish groups over this law prompted what observers say is a wave of anti-Semitic hatred with unprecedented intensity since the fall of communism in Poland.

The government is also leading a campaign that celebrates the actions of Poles who risked their lives to save Jews. The Yad Vashem Holocaust museum has recognized more than 6,000 Poles for such actions – the highest number of any nation.

Especially dangerous for Jews in hiding were small Polish towns, according to historians Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski, two of the nine researchers who conducted the study. They called them “death traps,” TOK FM reported.

Grabowski is professor of history at the University of Ottawa in Canada and a dean among Holocaust historians, especially on the actions of bystanders. His 2014 book, “Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland,” was the Yad Vashem International Book Prize winner for the same year. He also served as a fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The latest research entailed identifying, interviewing or reviewing interviews with as many survivors as possible to ascertain the fate of other Jews in hiding who did not survive, the report said. It also features newly discovered archives from remote areas of Poland from the Nazi occupation days and thereafter.

In one region, Miechów, more than 10 percent of the Jews in hiding were murdered directly by partisans who were members of the Polish underground, according to the study.


How Ewa Kurek, the Favorite Historian of the Polish Far Right, Promotes Her Distorted Account of the Holocaust

In public events across America, including one attended by a U.S. Congressman, the formerly respected scholar accused rich Jews of plotting with the Nazis to kill their poor brethren and argued that the ghettos were voluntary

On April 10, Poland’s consulate in New York announced the cancellation of the Polish-Jewish Dialogue’s annual awards dinner, where the historian Ewa Kurek was scheduled to receive an honor named after Jan Karski, an army officer who risked his life to tell the world about the horrors of Auschwitz and who later became one of Poland’s leading diplomats and elder statesmen. Right-wing non-Jewish participants in the group, which has around 60 members, had nominated Kurek for the award. The Dialogue’s Jews were led to believe that Kurek was a mainstream historian lauded for her extensive use of Jewish sources, and were apparently unfamiliar with her scholarly work and unaware of her actual beliefs.

Kurek has argued that the Jews lie about Polish conduct during WWII in order to smear Poland and hide their own people’s duplicity. She’s alleged that Jews forged a separate peace with the Nazis during the occupation of Poland and had happily confined themselves to ghettos for generations before the Germans showed up. She’s accused Poland’s urbanized and assimilated Jews of being Nazi collaborators during the Holocaust, and drawn pointed and creepily essentialist contrasts between the Jewish and Polish national characters. The award for Kurek was a briefly successful power play among hardline nationalist diasporans in the Dialogue. But Kurek turned out to be too much of an extremist for the Consulate, which was hosting the Karski dinner on its premises but nixed the event once complaints about the recognition for her poured in. Kurek’s award was withdrawn the day after the cancellation was announced, but not before the Polish-Jewish Dialogue had a plaque made for her.

That’s not where Ewa Kurek’s adventures in America ended. In Boston, on April 11, at an event at the Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish sponsored by the eastern Massachusetts chapter of the Polish American Congress and the Kluby Gazety Polskiej of Boston, Kurek spun noxious arguments about alleged Jewish complicity in the Holocaust. On April 14, she gave a speech at a conference to commemorate the Smolensk plane crash—the 2010 disaster that killed Poland’s president and other dignitaries—which was held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, a center of right-wing Polish diaspora activity in the United States. The event had a number of other far-right participants and sponsors, and also drew Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who stopped by for approximately 15 minutes according to his Capitol Hill office.

Even more jarring is Kurek’s appearance, on April 18, in the downstairs church at the St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn—A writer credibly accused of twisting the historical record of the Holocaust to inflame divisions between Poles and Jews gave a talk in a borough where perhaps as many as one in four residents are Jewish. All three of Kurek’s speeches were in Polish.

“What is particularly alarming,” Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a former chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial said of Kurek’s U.S. speeches, “is the fact that professional anti-Semites and Holocaust distorters are finding audiences and mining U.S. communities for support.”

Kurek’s trip around the northeast came at a sensitive moment for relations between Poland and the Jewish world. Earlier this year, a law criminalizing claims of Polish responsibility for the Holocaust sparked a diplomatic confrontation between Poland and Israel while ripping open one of the deepest wounds in both Polish and Jewish history. Kurek’s tour of America shows that the fight over the historical memory of the Holocaust in Poland is taking on a noxious character even in the U.S. As Havi Dreifuss, a historian of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe at Tel Aviv University and Yad Vashem put it, “Kurek is using the Holocaust and using Jewish history and Polish history in order to spread hate.” For a week in April, she was doing that right here in the United States.

Kurek’s highest-profile talk was at the Smolensk commemoration in Doylestown on April 14. A flyer for the event indicates that it was co-sponsored by a number of Polish diaspora groups, including the local chapter of the Polish American Congress, the Coalition of Polish Americans, and the Slavic Federal Credit Union. One notable co-sponsor included the Perth Amboy, New Jersey-based Friends of Radio Maryja, which supports a far-right Polish radio station that the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism called “one of Europe’s most blatantly anti-Semitic media venues,” and whose anti-Semitism is so plentiful that the outlet has en entire dedicated page on the Anti-Defamation League’s website. Friends of Radio Marijya is also a member of the Smolensk Disaster Commemoration Committee, the group most directly responsible for organizing the Doylestown event.  The Committee also includes the Gazeta Polska clubs of New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia.

John Czop, the treasurer of the Smolensk Committee and the director of policy planning for the national-level Polish American Congress, said that Kurek discussed a “Hasidic Jewish poet” during her talk who supposedly “claimed that the Polish state had nothing to do with the mass murder of Polish Jewry.” The assertion of official Polish blamelessness for the Holocaust was “the gist of Kurek’s remarks,” Czop said. Czop specified that the Committee “never wrote a check to Ewa Kurek” for her appearance. “She has a lot of wealthy friends in the United States,” he added.

Kurek appeared on a panel with Marek Jan Chodakiewcz of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for World Politics, who argued that Poland bore little responsibility for the 1968 anti-Semitic purges that resulted in the expulsion of many of the country’s remaining Jews. “Chodakiewcz delivered a lecture on March 1968 in Poland about how the accusation of anti-Semitism leveled at the Polish nation and the Polish people was manufactured and was a creation of Soviet propaganda. The Kremlin wanted to purge the Polish Communist Party of one faction and put the other faction into power,” Czop recalled of Chodakiewcz’s talk. In a Polish-language article earlier this year, Chokadiewcz fretted that the purges would likely be viewed through the prism of Polish anti-Semitism during their upcoming 50th anniversary, and claimed that it was trans-national communists and not Poles who brought about the expulsions.

When reached for comment by email, Chodakiewcz clarified that his speech covered “Soviet policy toward Israel before and after the stunning Jewish victory in 1967. I argued that virtually EVERY major policy was imposed by Moscow and/or vetted by it. I showed how the Six Day War triggered an anti-Jewish propaganda offensive first in the Soviet press. And I explained how the purge in 1968 started at the top: Polish ethnic and other Communists targeted the Communists of Jewish origin, and then the operation spread down, impacting regular folks.”

Kurek was not the only participant in the Smolensk commemoration with a history of problematic statements about Jews. In 2002, Antoni Macierewicz, a former defense minister who headed a parliamentary inquiry into the Smolensk disaster, told Radio Maryja that he thought the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, while possibly fake, might still be an accurate reflection of reality. Jan Zaryn, who was also listed as attending the event, is a far-right parliamentarian who introduced a resolution denying most Polish responsibility for the 1968 purges, and has called for the prosecution of the Princeton Holocaust historian Jan Tomasz Gross.

There were more mainstream figures in attendance too. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick made a brief appearance, although his Washington office claimed that he did not stick around for the panel discussions and was not familiar with Kurek, Zaryn, or Friends of Radio Maryja. Czop said that a representative from the Polish Consulate in New York was in attendance as well, and the Consulate confirmed to Tablet that vice consul Mateusz Gmura went to the event.

Weitzman said he worried that Fitzpatrick may have “passively legitimized the event,” even if the congressman didn’t know anything about Kurek or the conference’s other participants. “If someone appears on a platform with David Duke or Richard Spencer or Louis Farrakhan, they have to accept responsibility for that,” Weitzman said, adding that he considers Kurek to be roughly analogous to them.

In Czop’s view, Kurek is a serious historian whose work is methodologically rigorous. “She’s done careful research in resources in Israel and in Poland, so she needs to be taken seriously,” he said.

Chodakiewcz defended Kurek’s scholarship, even though he said he didn’t agree with all of it. “[F]or a very long time her scholarship was admired,” he wrote. “She did solid work on rescue during the Holocaust, in particular in convents and monasteries.”

According to Kurek’s online CV, she has presented papers at Princeton and at a 1988 conference at Yad Vashem. Czop said that the first time he saw Kurek speak was at Columbia University in 2007, in a talk introducing the arguments from her bookJewish-Polish Relations 1939-1945: Beyond the Limits of Solidarity. In the speech, Czop recalled, Kurek argued that “Polish Jewry tried to get an autonomy arrangement from Nazi Germany similar to the autonomy arrangement that they had been trying to work out with the Polish state.” According to Czop, Kurek claimed that “at least until the invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941…Nazi policy towards Polish Jewry was essentially one of having them govern themselves in their own ghettos.”

This is an odd definition of self-governance—but it was offered at an event held at an Ivy League institution, by an author of nine books with a PhD from the Catholic University of Lublin. Kurek studied under the late Polish foreign minister and Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, and the forward to her 1992 book Your Life Is Worth Mine: How Polish Nuns Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children in German-Occupied Poland, 1939-1945, was written by none other than Jan Karski (Last month, Karski’s literary executor strongly objected to Kurek being given the Dialogue’s award).

To her critics, Kurek’s credentials are part of what makes her such an alarming figure. She is an expert in the very historical record she’s accused of twisting: Because she gives consideration to Jewish sources, has had multiple books translated into English, and displays a bland professorial evenness during her public appearances, a typical listener might not be able to detect any bad faith lurking behind her words. She is maybe the only legitimate Holocaust scholar to have become an alleged Holocaust revisionist or distorter during a later phase of her career. When asked for potential precedents, David Silberklang, the editor-in-chief of Yad Vashem Studies and a leading expert on the Holocaust in Poland, could only think of the British Holocaust denier David Irving, who lacked Kurek’s extensive formal credentials and was never taken seriously as an academic historian.

Your Life Is Worth Mine, the book for which she is still best known, recounted Polish nuns’ efforts to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. Experts have noted some odd methodological choices in the book, which is based almost entirely on the memoirs of the nuns themselves and might have overestimated the extent to which Polish orders protected Jewish children during the war. “Outside of Poland the book was not considered to be top-notch scholarship,” said Silberklang. Yet to certain ears—and to people who wouldn’t necessarily know better—Kurek does not sound like an ideological extremist, but a fair-minded scholar who bases her work on historical evidence that Poland’s Jews themselves left behind.

“When you hear what was published by her and in her name in the last few weeks or months, you can see that the problem is not that she doesn’t know the history—she knows the historical facts. But she is distorting them,” said Dreifuss.

Katka Reszke, a Polish-born writer, artist, and Jewish educator who attended Kurek’s April 11 talk in Boston, said that Kurek has a favorite rhetorical trick: She’ll quote a contemporaneous`Jewish source, like a diary or a letter, as if it is the final word on a given topic and without providing any context that would complicate the historical narrative she is trying to construct. This tactic enables her to use Jews’ own words to confirm a hardline Polish nationalist narrative of the Holocaust, while also making Kurek herself appear broad-minded and evidentially rigorous. “She does this great job of quoting the sources that she wants to quote while not quoting other sources,” said Reszke. “But as a historian who has clearly read a lot about this, she’s obviously also read the stuff she doesn’t want to quote.”

Silberklang had a similarly unsparing verdict on Kurek’s work. “She doesn’t deny that Nazi Germany wanted to kill the Jews and that Jews were killed. She’s not a Holocaust denier in that sense,” he said. “But she distorts things so radically and so egregiously that she’s basically in the realm of Holocaust denial, or at least extreme distortion.”

Based on her April 18 speech in Greenpoint, which is partially available on YouTube, this is a defensible statement. According to Zygmunt Staszewski, a member of the Polish-Jewish dialogue who helped nominate Kurek for the Jan Karski prize, the Brooklyn talk was planned by Witold Rosowski, a journalist and activist known in Polish diaspora circles for his staunch right-wing views. Rosowski moderated the question-and-answer period at the Greenpoint talk and sat at a front table during her speech. When reached by email, Rosowski said he “helped to ensure the location for Dr. Ewa Kurek’s lecture in Greenpoint.” He said the talk was organized by “just a few people” and wasn’t sponsored by any organization.

During the Greenpoint event, Kurek made the incendiary claim that Poland’s urbanized and assimilated Jews took advantage of the Nazi occupation in order to help exterminate the country’s Hasidic population, whom Poland’s more educated Jews hated. “A few assimilated Jews survived the war: Some doctors or lawyers who during the war were most often members of the Jewish police and murdered Hasidim,” she said. The “enlightened elite” of Polish Jewry—most of whom survived the conflict because of their willingness to work with the Nazis, according to Kurek—had decided that “the rabble must perish.”

Kurek drifted into similarly odd territory when discussing the communist period during her Greenpoint speech, making liberal use of the phrase “żydokomuna”—a loaded term that vaguely translates to “Judeo-communism”—while claiming that much of the Jewish population in Poland today is descended from Jews who arrived with the Red Army at the tail-end of WWII.

Rosowski does not believe Kurek is an anti-Semite. If anything, he wrote, she is “a philo-Semite  since she presented a great interest in Jewish history, culture and faith in her life…There are very few people like her.” He said he was involved in organizing the Greenpoint speech because Kurek “is quite famous in Poland,” partly as a result of the controversies surrounding the country’s Holocaust law. “The alleged anti- Semitism of Dr. Kurek is probably coming from her telling the details of Ghetto in Lodz, where Chaim Rumkowski, as the Jewish commandant of the Ghetto, had a big role in sending Jews to German concentration camps,” Rososwki wrote. “She also stays firm, as have all Polish and Polish- Americans, defending the new law—stating that the death camps were German, built by Germans on the invaded and occupied territory of former Poland.”

As Rosowski suggests, many Poles resent being blamed for a German crime committed on their land. But Kurek’s recent career shows how legitimate grievances can spark much darker impulses. Reszke, the Polish-born author who attended Kurek’s speech at a church in Boston on April 11—the night of Yom HaShoah— explained that one of the eeriest things about the talk came from what she intuited about the other 50 or so people in the room, who might not have borne any specific ill will toward Jews and whose sense of hurt at slanders against the Polish people was sincerely felt. “The people that listen to her and that read her books don’t realize the manipulation behind it,” said Reszke. “They take it at face value and it perpetuates some feelings that they might have and also strengthens this idea that all Jews hate them.” At Kurek’s talk, Reszke said, she could see how seamlessly hatred could be repackaged into a normative worldview that people wouldn’t consciously question. “I think there’s danger in perpetuating anti-Semitism that doesn’t see itself as anti-Semitism,” she added, reflecting on the event. She left the talk wondering “how many decades or centuries” it would take to bridge the divisions on display.

Reszke recorded the entirety of Kurek’s speech, and took copious notes. Kurek returned to the idea that urbanized Jews had aided the Nazis in wiping out most of Poland’s Jewish population: “I’m telling you about the scale of Jewish collaboration in the murder of Jews. Collaboration in the murders and in the catching of Jews and in deporting them was overwhelming,” Kurek reportedly said—“she keeps reporting that it’s all in Jewish sources,” Reszke added.

“Who survived?” Kurek continued, according to Reszke. “Jewish policeman, doctors from the ghetto infirmaries who didn’t cure people but sent them to their death. Such beasts survived and these beasts created the little tale to obscure the truth about what really happened.” That “tale” refers to the widely accepted narrative about the Holocaust, which tends to assign some measure of guilt to societies that either aided in the purge of their Jews or did little to actually halt the carnage. “Most of the time it sounded like she was coming to the defense of the Germans more than the Poles,” Reszke observed. After all, “she’s speaking to a crowd that’s already convinced the Poles had nothing to do with any of the murders.”

Reszke did not necessarily plan on confronting Kurek. But she said she had come to her speech out of a sense of moral obligation, both to record Kurek’s statements and to challenge them if the opportunity arose. Toward the end of the talk, Kurek returned to another of her more controversial claims: The idea that Jews had chosen to live in the ghettos during WWII, which afforded protection from the chaos of wartime Poland. “As I was sitting there listening to this babble I kept saying to myself: Don’t say anything, don’t say anything, don’t speak, because it’s really not going to go down very well…In a way, I don’t remember making a conscious decisions to speak. I just heard myself talking.”

How, Reszke asked towards the end of the event amid an increasingly hostile crowd, does Kurek understand the fact that the Warsaw Ghetto was walled, with watchtowers to prevent people from leaving? Is that the sign of a happy and voluntary social arrangement?  “I say: So you’re saying it was the Jewish community’s idea to build a wall around the Warsaw ghetto? She said yes. Then she called me a young, undereducated little person and the crowd applauded.”

Reszke approached Kurek when the talk ended. Kurek asked for her business card. Reszke then tried to give Kurek an idea of the damage she was doing to the already fragile relationship between Jews and Poles. “I told her that I’ve lived in the States for over ten years and I’ve actually been doing quite a lot of work in my writing and in my public speaking talking about Poland today and the Jewish community in Poland and how things aren’t as bad as a lot of people think, and how there’s renewal and there’s Jewish life there—and now it’s because of people like you that I have a problem.” According to Reszke, all Kurek could say in response was a sharp “goodbye.”

Tablet intern Theo Canter contributed reporting to this article


They survived the Holocaust. Now the world is forgetting what they endured.


They have lived so long they are watching the world forget.

These Holocaust survivors — who range in age from 79 to 101 — gathered for an annual brunch Sunday in suburban Washington, where they were honored in the twilight of their extraordinary lives for what they had endured and how they had rebuilt in America. There were white rose corsages and boutonnieres, bagels and lox, a nice fruit salad.

But the past was not in the past. Hours before the gathering, a neo-Nazi rally was held in Georgia that ended with the burning of a giant swastika. In August, the Holocaust survivors watched white supremacists and neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville, chanting chilling anti-Semitic messages right out of the Hitler playbook: “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil.”

Edith Mayer Cord, 90, who was born in Vienna and spent her youth hiding and then escaping while family members were taken to Auschwitz, said she never imagined Nazi flags would fly in America in her lifetime. Or that rising anti-Semitism would be part of the national conversation.

“No. I never,” Cord said. “Not in this country.”

“I thought it was finished,” she said.

Yet over the weekend, President Trump tweeted about “Sleepy eyes Chuck Todd,” the NBC “Meet the Press” host who is Jewish. That is one of Trump’s favorite insults for Todd and one of the descriptions that has been hurled at Jews in the past. It has been on horrifying “How to Spot a Jew” lists since World War II and all over racist, white nationalist websites.

Trump has been accused of anti-Semitism before, especially in the wake of Charlottesville. Though the president has Jewish grandchildren, he seems to have lots of sympathy for virulent anti-Semites.

Then there is D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8), an elected official right here in the nation’s capital, who wondered aloud last month whether the Rothschilds — a wealthy Jewish banking family often accused of controlling governments — are somehow controlling the weather, too.

After White was accused of rank anti-Semitism, he launched an apology tour and agreed to a guided visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for some much-needed education.

During the tour last week, Washington Post reporter Peter Jamison saw White insist that a woman in a 1935 photo being publicly humiliated and marched through her German town by Nazi stormtroopers was being protected.

One of White’s aides, in front of a photo of the Warsaw Ghetto, likened it to “a gated community.” The patient tour guide told them it was “more like a prison.”

By then, White had ditched his tour and his guides and left the museum without explanation, halfway through the visit.

Then, The Post’s Fenit Nirappil learned that White had given a $500 donation in January at a Nation of Islam event where Louis Farrakhan said, “Powerful Jews are my enemy.”

When Joel Appelbaum began the survivors’ brunch at the Charles E. Smith Life Communities in Rockville eight years ago, it was in the spirit of honoring the people and their remarkable lives.

There were 50 of them, and very few wanted to talk publicly about their experiences, but they gathered and told small snippets of their stories to tablemates.

That is part of the survival, packing it away. Because how can you live a life of paying bills, doing dishes, raising the kids and sitting at a desk if you keep remembering the Nazi stormtroopers who machine-gunned everyone in the house while you — tiny, terrified you — hid in the closet during the bloodbath? If you keep lingering on the moment when half the people you were with were marched out to the freezing river, shot and thrown into the current when you were just 5 years old? If you remember the packed, hellish train to Auschwitz, during which 70 people in the train car died and you were one of 40 who survived — only to face the horrors of a death camp?

There is a new urgency in remembering those stories.

Two-thirds of American millennials polled did not know what Auschwitz is, and 22 percent had not heard of the Holocaust or were not sure if they had, according to a new survey conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

In their sunset years, the incredible Maryland survivors are opening up.

A handful of them went to the microphone at the Progress Club in Rockville on Sunday and told small stories they had not told before. Because something has changed in this country.

Not that it is easier.

Josiane Traum, 79, still choked up as she talked about the incredible act of bravery by her mother, Fanny Aizenberg, who lived through all the signature horrors of the Holocaust — from beatings by the Gestapo, to time in Auschwitz as a laborer and medical experiment subject — after giving her little daughter up to people who said they would hide her.

“My mother was so brave,” Traum said. “My mother gave me up and didn’t know if she’d ever see me again. . . . I am really, really lucky.”

They did see each other again. They sat next to each other at the brunch, representing the alpha and omega of the survivors’ age range, 79 and 101.

Aizenberg, the grande dame of the survivor’s group who still volunteers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum once a week, refuses to be called a hero.

“People tell you how they survived? They always ask me, ‘How did you survive?’ ” she said, in between brunch bites. “No one can tell you how they survived.”

“I don’t know how I survived,” she said.

The horrors are so profound. The stories grotesque and cruel, especially when told in a setting of china and stemmed water glasses.

The horrors are not gone. Never has that been clearer with this group than now.

“Nazism isn’t something that just happened one day because of one bad guy,” Cord said. “All of these ideas were there — all he had to do was pick them up.”

All of those ideas are still here. But we must never, ever let anyone pick them all up.

Never again.