“One can’t walk in the streets and the newspapers are not allowed to print the truth, because they are afraid that the Polish currency would be shaky. A Jew is not allowed to go out in the street at night because his life is at risk.”You know the great thing about centuries of slavery in the United States? The big positive that gets overlooked, even during Black History Month, between Harriet Tubman and those wood cuts of tightly packed slave ships? I should probably draw this out, because a lot of readers are thinking, “What?” reaching for the cudgel of outrage. But there is one undeniably positive aspect to both slavery and the 150 years of oppression that followed.
That we can talk about it now, honestly, openly, write and discuss, and contemplate our nation’s difficult and tortured past, unafraid. That is an undeniable greatness of America, one to be proud of. Because not every country can manage it.
This week, in Poland, a verdict will be handed down in a libel case against two historians, Barbara Engelking, with Warsaw’s Polish Center for Holocaust Research, and Jan Grabowski.
The pair co-edited a book, “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland.” Lucky for them, they couldn’t be prosecuted over a 2018 Polish law that criminalized associating Poland or Poles with World War II atrocities — that effort was greeted with such international derision it was reversed.
But the government still funds the Polish League Against Defamation, which sued the authors for recounting history that contradicts their sense of unmitigated national glory by suggesting that one individual credited with saving Jews also sent them to their deaths.
“In America, one’s life is safe. Here a Jew’s life is worthless ... My friend and I were in the garden, sitting on a bench, engrossed in a book. All of a sudden, several hooligans appeared holding sticks in their hands ...”Like our own country for the past half decade, and nations around the world, Poland fell in the grip of resurgent nationalism. A shameful political philosophy that believes a country becomes great, not by actually doing great things, but through talk, threats and pressure. Their greatness is declarative — tell everybody “We are great!” Over and over and over.
Poland has a long history of anti-Semitism....
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