By Antony Polonsky
During this quantity, Antony Polonsky has translated and edited an important contributions to this very public and intensely debatable debate. The members grapple with the poor ethical questions surrounding the therapy passed out by means of one set of the Nazis' sufferers to a different. What may perhaps the Poles have performed, and what have been they keen to do? Many Poles vehemently argue their innocence, pointing to their utter helplessness ahead of the Nazis, whereas others resolutely refuse to make excuses for status by--or even aiding--the slaughter. This assortment meets those dilemmas head-on, in a tricky and troubling debate.
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Extra resources for My Brother's Keeper: Recent Polish Debates on the Holocaust
My answer is this: participation and shared responsibility are not the same thing. One can share the responsibility for the crime without taking part in it. Our responsibility is for holding back, for insufficient effort to resist. Which of us could claim that there was sufficient resistance in Poland? It is precisely because resistance was so weak that we now honour those who did have the courage to take this historic risk. It may sound rather strange, but I do believe that this shared responsibility, through failure to act, is the less crucial part of the problem we are considering.
In Sila-Nowicki’s words: 21 ANTONY POLONSKY I am proud of my nation’s stance in every respect during the period of occupation and in this include the attitude towards the tragedy of the Jewish nation. Obviously, the attitudes towards the Jews during that period do not give us a particular reason to be proud, but neither are they any grounds for shame, and even less for ignominy. Simply, we would have done relatively little more than we actually did. 62) This view was echoed by Kazimierz Kakol, at present Director of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes in Poland.
We did take Jews into our home, but we made them live in the cellar. When they wanted to come into the drawing-room, our response was—Yes, but only after you cease to be Jews, when you become ‘civilized’. This was the thinking of our most enlightened minds, such as Orzeszkowa and Prus. There were those among Jews who were ready to adhere to this advice. No sooner did they do this than we started in turn talking of an invasion of Jews, of the danger of their infiltration of Polish society. Then we started to put down conditions like that stated expresses verbis by Dmowski, that we shall accept as Poles only those Jews who are willing to cooperate in the attempts to stem Jewish influences in our society.