JUSTICE - No. 68

29 Summer 2022 a different scale, took part in robbing the Jews, in enforcing the German anti-Jewish regulations and, not infrequently, in murdering the Jewish victims. The new “memorial consensus” that emerged in Western Europe has been roundly rejected in the East, and especially in Poland. To defend the myths of national innocence, Polish authorities not only established several institutions of memory control but also began to rely increasingly on repressive legal measures. This “juridification” of history draws on the provisions of both criminal and civil codes. In January 2018, the Polish parliament enacted the so-called “Polish Holocaust Law” (officially, the “Amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance”) which called for three years imprisonment for people who “slandered the good name of the Polish nation” by “falsely accusing the Polish nation of having committed crimes committed by the German III Reich.” Article 55a, rightly perceived as a blunt instrument intended to muzzle independent historians and educators, and a direct threat to the memory of the Holocaust, acquired notoriety and triggered worldwide indignation. After several months of international pressure, the Polish authorities were forced to decriminalize the law, although they also decided to threaten historians with civil litigation conducted either directly by the state institutions, or by the GONGOS, acting as proxies for the government. Indeed, some GONGOS, such as the Redoubt of Defense of the Good Name of the Polish Nation4 [sic], filed civil lawsuits against independent historians of the Holocaust. Others, such as the state-funded “Institute to Combat Antipolonism,” reported historians and journalists to the State Attorney’s Office, triggering criminal investigations based on article 133 of the criminal code. This article, a close cousin of 1932 legislation used before the war to prosecute Jews, calls for prison terms of up to three years for people “slandering the good name of the Polish nation.” There are several avenues of harassment open to authorities and all of them produce their desired effect: to introduce a climate of fear and to have a chilling effect on students, educators, teachers, and scholars of the Holocaust. Incidentally, the above-mentioned Institute to Combat Antipolonism is a child of the June 2018 declaration signed jointly by the Prime Ministers of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.5 Both politicians agreed to place antisemitism and “antipolonism” (quotation marks are not without significance) on an equal footing. While antisemitism is an ancient ideology of hate, “antipolonism” is a concept which exists mostly in the imagination of Polish nationalists. According to the proponents of this idea, there is a world-wide conspiracy directed against the Polish nation. It is a preposterous notion, and the fact that Israel’s Prime Minister chose to sign such a declaration is more proof of the desperation of Israeli authorities for diplomatic support. It is also another stepping-stone on the way to relativize the Holocaust; one of the unstated goals of Holocaust distortionists. The geographical location of Auschwitz, Sobibór, Bełżec, Majdanek, and Chełmno all contributed to making Poland a custodian of the memory of the Holocaust. A very reluctant custodian, however. Not even one museum of history of the Holocaust has been built in Poland, and not even one chair of Holocaust history has been created at a Polish university. This “disassociation” with the event goes further: while all Polish state museums have Polish “pl” internet domains, all former death camps are branded with non-national domains: Majdanek.eu, Sobibormemorial.eu, Belzec.eu, Muzeumtreblinka.eu, or Auschwitz.org. In the same vein, it is practically impossible in today’s Poland to erect a Stolperstein. These “tripping stones,” so popular in the cities of Western Europe, are small bronze markers inserted into the sidewalks in front of the houses where the victims of the Holocaust once dwelled. A Stolperstein usually lists the person’s name, date of birth and death, and the place where the Jewish victim had been murdered. In Poland, the Stolpersteine – a constant reminder of Jewish suffering – would have challenged the state-approved narrative focused on Polish martyrdom. The erection of Stolpersteine has been made practically impossible by the IPN, an institution in charge of the permits.6 4. Outside Poland, in an attempt to emulate B’nai B’rith, the GONGO markets itself under the name: “Polish League Against Defamation.” 5. Tamar Pileggi, “Netanyahu aides insist Yad Vashem approved controversial Holocaust declaration,” TIMES OF ISRAEL, Jul. 5, 2018, available at https://www.timesofisrael. com/netanyahu-negotiators-insist-yad-vashem-approvedholocaust-declaration/ 6. Maciej Korkuć, “Wodpowiedzi na informacje zawarte w artykule dotyczącym 'kamieni pamięci o ofiarach Holocaustu'” [In response to the information included in an article regarding the “Stones of Memory” of the victims of the Holocaust. A Statement of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN)], Oct. 30, 2019, available at https://ipn.gov.pl/pl/ dla-mediow/komunikaty/80628,W-odpowiedzi-nainformacje-zawarte-w-artykule-dotyczacym-kamienipamieci-o-ofiar.html

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