JUSTICE - No. 68

30 No. 68 JUSTICE According to the statement published by the IPN: We consider the Stoperstein concept, as conceived by the German artist Gunther Demnig, as highly controversial and generally at odds with the memorial culture accepted in Poland. A normal sidewalk has utilitarian purpose, hardly appropriate for commemoration. The surface is being stomped upon and the area is daily sullied in a variety of ways. One has to wonder whether this would be the appropriate way to render homage to the victims of the German terror.7 The Jewish families from Kraków that sought official permission to honor their loved ones murdered in the Holocaust were told that the commemorative plaques would have to be in English only, and that the death camp would have to be described as “German Nazi.” The notion of “English only” memorial markers in a country where the official language is Polish was explained by the IPN as a measure intended to allow the families of the victims (presumably living abroad) to understand the message. At the same time, the authorities decided against allowing any Polish toponyms on the Stolpersteine. Most likely, this was done to discourage people from asking unpleasant questions about the circumstances of death of the commemorated Jewish victims. An IPN-imposed ban on Stolpersteine is part of a more general attack on the memory and commemoration of the Jewish tragedy currently under way in Poland. This attack takes many forms. In 2021, the nationalists pushed a bill through parliament that effectively prevents Holocaust survivors and their descendants from seeking restitution for property lost during the war. The debate surrounding the bill was acrimonious, heated, and filled with ugly antisemitic overtones. There were two arguments repeated with worrying frequency: one, that the Jews themselves contributed to the German genocidal project and two, that the Polish suffering was at least as terrible as the Jewish one and, therefore, any claims for restitution should be rejected as groundless. The first argument must have inspired the statement made by the Polish PM Morawiecki: “there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators as well as Ukrainian perpetrators...”8 Morawiecki most likely referred to the members of the Jewish Councils (Judenräte) and to the Jewish policemen, members of the Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst. Placing Polish and Ukrainian volunteer perpetrators, and Jews who were put to death with the rest of their nation on an equal footing is disingenuous at best, and borders on Holocaust denial at worst. The IPN followed the same lines, implying in the social media that the Jewish police were complicit in the detection and death of Emanuel Ringelblum, a Jewish-Polish historian who survived in hiding in Warsaw until March 1944.9 What the IPN conveniently forgot, was that Ringelblum was detected not by the Jewish policemen (who, by March 1944, were long dead) but by the members of a unit of the Polish Criminal police who specialized in hunting down the hidden Jews. Dr. Tomasz Panfil, the chief of the Public Education Department of the IPN office in Lublin, went on record saying that: “Jews did not have it all that bad in the beginning of the German occupation in Poland” and that the “Jewish Councils were a form of Jewish selfgovernment.”10 Both statements are an offense to the memory of the dead. Incidentally, this ideological evolution of the IPN reached its logical conclusion in February 2021, with the appointment of Dr. Tomasz Greniuch as chief of the institute’s branch in Wrocław. Dr. Greniuch is a former neo-Nazi, who publicly and frequently lifts his right arm in a Nazi salute (also known as Hitlergruß, or “Hitler greeting”) and who is also an admirer of Leon Degrelle.11 Together with blaming the victims, the Polish authorities continue, following the logic of Holocaust envy, to elevate 7. Maciej Korkuć, supra note 6. 8. Avi Selk, “Polish leader denies being a Holocaust revisionist after blaming ‘Jewish perpetrators’,” WASHINGTON POST, Feb. 18, 2018, available at https://www.washingtonpost. com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/18/polish-leaderdenies-being-a-holocaust-revisionist-after-blaming-jewishperpetrators/ 9. Institute of National Remembrance, Twitter, Mar. 10, 2019, available at https://twitter.com/ipngovpl_eng/status /1104784340888797184 10. Adam Leszczynski, “’Sytuacja Żydów nie wyglądała źle,’ Analizujemy kuriozalny artykuł historyka z IPN o stosunkach polsko-żydowskich” [The Situation of Jews was not so Bad, We Analyse the Ridiculous Article of an IPN Historian Dealing with Polish-Jewish Relations], OKO PRESS, Oct. 5, 2017, available at https://oko.press/sytuacja-zydowwygladala-zle-analizujemy-kuriozalny-artykul-historykaipn-o-stosunkach-polsko-zydowskich/ 11. After international protests, Dr. Greniuch’s resignation was reluctantly accepted by Dr. Szarek, the chief of the IPN.