World Jewish Congress joins criticism of The New Yorker article

The president of the World Jewish Congress has added his weight to condemnation of an article published inThe New Yorker magazine that implied Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.

The article by Masha Gessen, published on March 26, drew strong criticism from the Polish embassy in Washington and from Polish politicians.

The article entitled, 'Historians attacked for researching the role of Poland in the Holocaust' included the statement, "to exonerate the nation of the murders of three million Jews, the Polish government will go as far as to prosecute scholars for defamation," in reference to the prosecution of historisns Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking.

On Monday, the text was amended to clarify some wording in a subheading, though the magazine and author said they stand by the article itself.

Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski Vel Sek condemned the article as scandalous, saying: "This is an attempt to create a picture that Poles were responsible for the extermination of three million Jews during World War II."

"During the Holocaust, Nazi Germany and its multinational accomplices were responsible for perpetrating the murder of millions of people, including six million Jews," the World Jewish Congress (WJC) wrote in a statement released on Tuesday.

"While the Polish government has struggled to acknowledge the crimes of local Poles and various Polish groups during that darkest time, the systematic destruction of Polish Jewry during the German occupation cannot be attributed to Polish society or the vanquished Polish state," the statement reads.

The statement went on to quote WJC President Ronald S. Lauder as saying: "It is most unfortunate that in seeking to draw attention to the Polish government’s problematic confrontation with the tragic history of wartime Polish-Jewish relations, The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen implies that Poles (not Germans) were the prime perpetrators of the Holocaust. This historically false characterization should not have found its way into the pages of the New Yorker or any publication.”

"When discussing history, the precision of language and facts is essential," Lauder's quote continued. "Whatever the extent of local participation, Poland cannot be held accountable for masterminding the plan to wipe out Polish and European Jewry which was pursued by the Germans with ruthless zeal."

The World Jewish Congress is the international organisation representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.