The history of the Holocaust is one of the most important and, at the same time, the most hotly debated issues in public discussions in Poland. It is, at the same time, one of these issues which need to be discussed with utmost responsibility for each and every word spoken. For this reason, we are deeply disturbed by the growing number of statements made by the Polish politicians and other people who have a direct influence on the shaping of Polish historical memory.
Last week Ms. Anna Zalewska, the minister of National Education, a person whose influence on the instruction of the Polish youth cannot be underestimated, declared in public that she was unable to say who were the perpetrators of the 1946 Kielce pogrom or of the notorious mass-murder in Jedwabne, in 1941. These were shocking words, and equally shocking was the lack of any reaction whatsoever on the part of the Polish government. Indeed, the ignorance or bad will demonstrated by minister Zalewska is not an isolated event.
Jaroslaw Szarek, recently appointed to the position of the director of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), when queried about the identity of the murderers from Jedwabne, immediately pointed to the Germans, invalidating, by the same token, the previous findings of the IPN, an institution with which he had been associated from the very beginning. These declarations bring shame to minister Zalewska and Dr. Szarek and, more importantly, they become part and parcel of the Polish historical policy which openly defies the historical facts.
It seems that the declarations of Polish officials are related to the statements made by Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, who, during the last presidential campaign, used the Jedwabne massacre in order to raise doubts about his opponent, the incumbent president. We are deeply shocked and saddened by the attempts to use and to abuse the tragedy of the Holocaust in order to score political points in the current debates. These actions will entail hard to evaluate social costs and will lead to the humiliation of Poland on the international scene.
Members of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research