Lies about Polish responsibility for Holocaust threat to national security

Poland could be isolated and its security threatened by Russian misinformation and a slander campaign alleging Polish responsibility for the Holocaust, a government official has warned in a press article.

Stanislaw Zaryn, the press officer of the minister coordinator for special services, wrote in The Tablet, an international Catholic news weekly, that in 2021, Israel's Yad Vashem institute published a tweet which promoted a book devoted to "Jewish medicine in Poland during the Holocaust" which, he says suggests, contrary to historical facts, that the extermination of the Jews took place in Poland.

Zaryn wrote that that both the tweet and the book "are part of a wider effort to distort the history of World War Two and the Holocaust," which he argued is present in "many Israeli, American, German and other European media". This, he added, is evidence of "an ongoing, complex smear campaign targeting the country and its people."

Zaryn points out that as a result of the German and Soviet invasions of 1939, the sovereign Polish state ceased to exist before the Germans implemented their plan to annihilate the Jews. Nonetheless, a smear campaign directed at Poland threatens its security and the truth about the Holocaust, Zaryn maintained.

This type of false accusation influences the quality of public debate and the level of social awareness, Zaryn wrote, and as a result, "there is a high risk that the country which fell victim to the German and Soviet aggression and atrocities during World War Two will one day be identified as the perpetrator."

"It would be naive to think that all Poles displayed bravery or acted with honour during the Second World War," Zaryn continued. "Scumbags can be found in every single nation, including the Polish one. There were some Poles who collaborated with the German occupier. Some of them robbed, betrayed, or even killed their Jewish neighbours. However, it is unfair to judge the whole wartime Polish nation or state (which in fact did not exist) by the misdeeds of its black sheep."

Zaryn wrote that it was difficult to estimate how many Poles saved Jewish neighbours, but that, "it is indisputable that, among the Poles, there were many more 'righteous' people than traitors."

"The number of Poles who sold their souls to the enemy was marginal," Zaryn continued. "The Polish Underground State hunted them down and executed them. There was no mercy for those who took the side of the German aggressor. And that is another reason why Poland rejects any claims suggesting its implication in the Holocaust.

"But most importantly, compared to many other European countries, the Polish government never collaborated with the occupier and there was no Polish delegation or administration at the disposal of the Germans," the article stated.

Zaryn wrote that during the Nazi occupation, most Poles were passive in the face of German crimes against Jews due to the extremely difficult circumstances and repression that was far more brutal than in other European countries.

"Nevertheless, many articles and other types of content in worldwide media have been published and are published each year that falsely claim the Poles could have done better," the article continued. "Some of them go as far as suggesting that the World War Two Polish society turned its eyes away from the Holocaust, thus turning its back on the Jews, or even that Poland was complicit in this genocide. Pushing such narratives can have a detrimental effect on the Poles and their country. In fact, more and more audiences worldwide become convinced that it is Poland that bears responsibility for the tragedy of the Jews and the war."

Zaryn also focused on an alleged Russian disinformation campaign.

"Russian propaganda spreads biased content in order to push the same narratives as those mentioned before," he wrote. "The aim is to make international public opinion believe that the history of Poland is filled with crime and atrocities that the Poles are trying to whitewash. And the power of social communication may amplify the hostile effect of such efforts. To put it in a wider context, Russia wants to see Poland isolated on the international arena, particularly within the Nato community, because it aims to weaken the allied guarantees for Poland and discourage other member states from defending it, if needed."