Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has slammed historian Barbara Engelking for claiming that Poles were co-responsible for the Holocaust.
“Poles and Poland were a barrier and obstacle to the Holocaust and not co-responsible for it,” Morawiecki wrote on social media in response to the claim made by Prof. Barbara Engelking on commercial channel TVN24 upon commemorating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising.
Engelking, who heads the Research Center on Jewish Genocide within the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), told TVN24 that Jews knew what to expect of Germans because they were the enemy, but the relationship with Poles was more complex.
According to Engelking, “Poles had the potential to be allies of the Jews and there was hope that they would at least be neutral and friendly and that there would not be widespread denunciations of Jews to the Germans and instances of the Jews being robbed by Poles.”
Morawiecki took to social media to react to her “scandalous remarks that have nothing to do with robust historical research and knowledge.” He argued that the fact the Holocaust took place on Polish territory was a sad paradox given the fact that Poland was the country that had been the most welcoming to the Jews for hundreds of years.
It was the destruction of the Polish state that had been a sanctuary for the Jews that led to the Holocaust; only after the Germans achieved that were they able to proceed with exterminating Jews. “Poland was a barrier and obstacle to the Holocaust and not its cause,” stressed Morawiecki.
The Polish prime minister added that Poles are the largest group among those the Jews recognized as having helped them. A number he said was much greater than the 7,000 out of 28,000 honored by Israel in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem. He also cited evidence from Jewish historians that, in Warsaw alone, 28,000 Jews were hidden outside of the ghetto, and that between 70,000 and 90,000 Poles were involved in helping them, thereby risking their lives. Despite their best efforts, just 11,500 of the Jews survived.
And these Poles helped Jews even though this meant they could be put to death since helping a Jew was a capital offense under the German occupiers.
Poland’s head of government called Prof. Engelking’s remarks “scandalous opinions” rather than facts and accused her of feeding an anti-Polish narrative, a narrative that had been bred in communist times when the subject of Polish aid for Jews had been neglected.
Morawiecki added that such neglect was used by other countries to build an unfavorable narrative of Polish history.