There is much to commend in Professor Daniel Blatman’s recent Haaretz column (Israel, it’s time to call off the anti-Polish hunt), in which he argues that the determination of some people to insist on a crude stereotype of Poland as an irredeemable “hothouse of anti-Semitism” risks clouding understanding of the complex realities of the Polish-Jewish experience.
It is of course wrong to hold an entire nation responsible in perpetuity for the historic ignorance and criminality of its worst elements – even if recent polling conducted by the Anti-Defamation League suggests that some anti-Semitic attitudes in Poland remain worryingly durable. And it is of course wrong to portray legitimate acts of commemoration of Polish suffering as somehow automatically signifying indifference to the fate of the Polish Jews.
But that only makes it all the more unfortunate that Professor Blatman should have invoked the so-called “KL Warschau hoax” in defense of the Polish authorities.
His argument appears to be that the Polish government cannot be held responsible for the activities of a handful of anti-Semites who have been spreading misinformation about a “secret” German death camp in the Polish capital – a hoax designed to fan resentment against Jews and challenge the singularity of the Holocaust.
But if the KL Warschau hoax proves anything, it is not that the Polish authorities bear no responsibility for the flourishing of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories associated with nationalist falsifications of history.
On the contrary, it serves as one of the most vivid examples of senior Polish officials actively promoting and protecting a grotesque historical distortion that, if left unchecked, will continue to fuel anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial in sections of Polish society.
You can read my op-ed for Haaretz here.