Poland’s New Bill Aims to Erase History

by Heysha Garcia-Melendez

The Polish President, Andrzej Duda, signed a bill titled “The Holocaust Bill”. This bill states that you can’t blame Poland for any crimes that happened during the Holocaust. This will prohibit you from saying things like “Polish death camps” and if you do, you can get up to 3 years of prison time. They also declared an exception for people wanting to be educated about the Holocaust. They also stated that this is not what they were trying to accomplish. If that’s the case then, what are they trying to accomplish? Are they trying to save themselves or get rid of the blame? I understand that they were occupied by Nazi Germany and many didn’t have a choice. That said, it still doesn’t make this right. We can’t just forget about all those people who actively sought to hurt Jews, and we can’t forget the fact that there were concentration camps on Polish land. Polish authorities claim that the bill is protection against crimes that they didn’t commit. If they didn’t commit those crimes then what do they need protection from?

I asked Mr. Chambers a few questions on this topic; below you can see his responses.

Q: What do you think about the Holocaust bill?

A: What it seems to be to me is that, it’s an example of Polish nationalism. It shows how they are uncomfortable with their own history and so they are trying to whitewash their history to avoid feeling culpable.

Q: What do you think will be its effect on Poland? Specifically their Jewish population.

A: From the data I’ve seen, the Jewish population in Poland is almost nonexistent. There are some left, but in many areas that were once dominated by the Jews, because of the Holocaust, they are now gone. Their culture has now been erased. The effect is something that I’m not really sure about, that’s a tough question.

Q: What do you think they were trying to accomplish?

A: Nationalism. A nationalistic urge to hide culpability and it’s pretty similar to how some white Americans feel uncomfortable talking about slavery. There have been ads trying to justify this bill and basically the entire message is that Poles were victims too, which is true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t collaborators.

Q: Do you think that the idea behind the bill had good intentions?

A: My own interpretation is that there is no way for this to be rationalized. It’s the same way that the Turks won’t admit to the Armenian genocide or the fact that they killed a bunch of Greeks. Or the Japanese agreeing to have “Comfort Women”. It’s something that brings shame to the country and they don’t want to mention it.  

Mr. Chambers mentioned the fact that other countries do the same thing which got me thinking: Why is the response to a tragic event immediately hidden away and dismissed? Does pretending something doesn’t exist actually ease the guilt away?

The biggest question I’ve been asking myself is: “What is the point of creating this?” My theory is that they feel guilty about what occurred in the past. so, they decided that instead of feeling sympathetic for all of those harmed during the Holocaust, they are choosing to ignore it. It just doesn’t make sense. Let me use an analogy to explain it to you. Let’s say that all of history is written in pen, whenever we hide or pretend something doesn’t exist, it’s like using white out. This bill is similar to spilling a whole bunch of whiteout on Poland’s chapter of the Holocaust. This is both erasure of their responsibility and it’s whitewashing history to fit a better story or cover for them. You can’t just erase history, even with white out you still know that there is a mistake underneath.