Polish Jews protest against term ‘mini-Holocaust’

In his article ‘What Helen Thomas missed’ Richard Cohen wrote: “The mini-Holocaust that followed the Holocaust itself is not well-known anymore, but it played an outsize role in the establishment of the state of Israel. It was the plight of Jews consigned to Displaced Persons camps in Europe that both moved and outraged President Harry Truman, who supported Jewish immigration to Palestine and, when the time came, the new state itself. Something had to be done for the Jews of Europe. They were still being murdered. In the Polish city of Kielce, on July 4, 1946 -- more than a year after the end of the war -- rumors of a Jewish ritual murder triggered a pogrom in which 42 Jewish Holocaust survivors were killed. The Kielce murders were not, by any means, the sole example of why Jews could not "go home." When I visited the Polish city where my mother had been born, Ostroleka, I was told of a Jew who survived Auschwitz only to be murdered when he tried to reclaim his business. In much of Eastern Europe, Jews feared for their lives.”

Michael Schudrich chief rabbi of Poland and Piotr Kadlcik president of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland responded to this article. Their letter entitled “There is only one Holocaust” was published in the “Washington Post” on 19 June.

The leaders of Jewish community in Poland stressed the unique character of Holocaust and strongly opposed the term ‘mini-Holocaust’ to be referred to other mass killings.

“We were shocked - reads the letter - to see Cohen qualify the violence against the Jews in Poland at that time as ‘a mini-Holocaust’. The Holocaust was a one-time-only, stand-alone event; it does not come in different sizes. It ended on V-E Day in 1945, with the end of the Nazi regime, which had made genocide against the Jews one of its main objectives. To suggest otherwise, to refer to killings of Jews by Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians or Arabs after that date and outside the Nazi framework as a Holocaust, mini or not, unavoidably legitimizes the use of the term to refer to other mass killings. If Kielce and other postwar murders of Jews in Poland were a mini-Holocaust, then surely the recent mob violence in, say, Kyrgyzstan, was one as well. The term ‘Holocaust’ would then become just another synonym of not only genocide but indeed mass murder”.

The authors pointed out a crucial aspect of the Holocaust, the role of the state - the German Third Reich as an organizer of a systematic state campaign and genocide which reflected the official state ideology. In Poland the postwar murders of Jews reflected popular anti-Semitism, the corrupting impact of Nazi propaganda and action, and the general lawlessness of the country. But the state and authorities were not involved in repressions against Jews. “The Polish military and police tried to suppress pogrom attempts, even if orders were not always followed, and after Kielce, the government allowed an armed Jewish militia to be set up for self-defense”. - remind the authors of the letter.

Found on our Polish partner website "Learning from History"


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