“CONCERN” and “disappointment” is the early reaction by members of the Australian Jewish community to controversial legislation passed by the Polish Parliament last week which would make it a criminal offence to publicly suggest the Polish nation was complicit in crimes committed against Jews during the Holocaust.
Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants president Peter Wayne told The AJN, “We feel the legislation will in some ways hamper the proper consideration of the Holocaust.
“Our main concern is that anything which in any way limits the spectrum of discussion and academic investigation into the perpetrators of the Holocaust is very disappointing.”
Izydor Marmur, the president of the Australian Society of Polish Jews and their Descendants (ASPJ), said, “My reaction is of disappointment and also concern.
“Jews are for the most part accepted and welcomed in the modern Polish society as part of the community, but legislation such as the one just passed has a potential to cause a rift that sets the relaitonship back, and that can take a long time to repair.”
Marmur said he believes it is important to respond “not by emotional confrontation but a rational examination of the facts, through dialogue and education”.
“First the truth has to be acknowledged and then reconciliation is possible. It is right to acknowledge that there were Polish individuals who collaborated with the Nazis, just as there were many heroic Polish indiviudals who risked their lives to save Jews.
“The hurt and outrage of those who realise how incorrect and unjust the terms ‘Polish concentration camps’ or ‘Polish extermination camps’ is understandable [too].”
Marmur said the ASPJ, together with leaders of the Polish community of Australia, “are developing a strategy to countre the potential problems associated with this legislation”.
Danny Hochberg, who chairs the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ Shoah Commemoration Committee, told The AJN he is concerned the legislation, if left unchecked, could become a barrier in the path of many Polish organisations, like the Forum for Dialogue, which do important ongoing work to bring Jews and Poles together.
“The passing of this clumsy legislation will not build trust, and [it] will undermine the good work of such organisations,” Hochberg said.
“Let’s hope that we can overcome this, and continue to build the relationship between Poles and Jews through dialogue, rather than unilateral declarations.”