To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize? — Neo-Nazi Kevin Alfred Storm (commonly misattributed to Voltaire)
Poland is one of those nations that, whenever it shows up in the news, I know I’m going to be hearing about for the next couple of months. It and Hungary are the forefront of the modern populist-right in Europe, and many were happy when they saw this news tweeted out by Disclose on 12/11/2020:
NEW — Poland to fine social media companies that censor lawful speech. A new bill will prohibit Big Tech companies to remove content or block accounts if the content does not break Polish law.
Immediately, I figured I would remind people what Poland views as “lawful speech,” — or more accurately, what it does not. In 2018, Poland passed the 2018 Amendment To The Act On The Institute Of National Remembrance which made it a civil offense (originally a criminal offense) to tarnish the “good name” of Poland. That same year, Newsweek was sued by the Polish League Against Defamation, which although an NGO it does have close ties to the right-wing Law And Justice Party of which Poland’s current President spent a decade as a member of, for using the phrase “Polish concentration camp” in an article in reference to a concentration camp set up by Communists after the Second World War. This year, Poland also passed a resolution declaring both Russia and Germany equally responsible for World War Two.
Even ignoring the historical inaccuracy Poland is engaging in, I still would never support a law banning any form of speech. I find it funny laws against Holocaust denial are (rightfully) seen as the infringements on free expression that they clearly are by much of the world, but for some reason laws against basic acknowledgement are seen as perfectly okay. Of course, Poland is run by the right-wing nutjob Andrzej Duda (the man who amended the Constitution of his country to ban same-sex adoption and created a massive protest movement in his country by trying to ban abortion which still goes on to this day, but before the right-wing nationalists get too excited he is also friends with Chinese President Xi Jinping) so maybe that has something to do with it. In my mind, a government can make any statement about history illegal is one that has become authoritarian, and even if the law were accurate with history, it should still be opposed on this basic grounds.
However, it is not true, as various Nazi Concentration Camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Gross-Rosen, Majdanek, Plaszow, Sobibor, Stutthof, and Treblinka, operated inside the borders of Poland during the Nazi occupation. Many of these camps were operated by native Polish citizens during the Nazi occupation. Poland also spent another four and a half decades under the occupation of the Soviet Union, where concentrations camps were also created and human rights were commonly violated.
But the Polish death camp deniers have a comeback: You see, they inform, those actions did not take place in Poland but in German and Soviet occupied nations — what nations they occupied is commonly left unsaid. This was the actual court-ruling regarding the Newsweek case mentioned above, that, despite the camps being in Poland, since they were built by communists (which country were those communists in again?) they are “Communist concentration camp” and not “Polish concentration camp.”
In May 2012, while giving a posthumous Metal of Freedom to polish resistance-fighter Jan Karski, President Obama said the forbidden phrase in reference to the death camps located in the nation of Poland. Obama actually had to write a letter to Poland’s then-President Bronisław Komorowski after many in the nation criticized his non-existence error.
Here’s what the letter said:
In referring to “a Polish death camp” rather than “a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland,” I inadvertently used a phrase that has caused many Poles anguish over the years and that Poland has rightly campaigned to eliminate from public discourse around the world. I regret the error and agree that this moment is an opportunity to ensure that this and future generations know the truth.
This is so pedantic it hurts. We all know whenever a liberal publication does this with anyone, they are laughed at nonstop at best and considered “political correctness gone mad” at worst. Nobody would take it seriously if I made this demand for any other nation at any other point in history. But for some reason, the nation of Poland is just above all other nations and people.
Obama goes on to say:
As we all know, the Polish people suffered terribly under the brutal Nazi occupation during World War II. In pursuit of their goals of destroying the Polish nation and Polish culture and exterminating European Jewry, the Nazis killed some six million Polish citizens, including three million Polish Jews during the Holocaust. The bravery of Poles in the underground resistance is one of history’s great stories of heroism and courage.
But can’t the same be said of the Germans? Nazi Germany killed many of its native citizens, and many Germans attempted to resist Hitler — the first concentration camps, in fact, were for political enemies of Hitler (social democrats, socialists, communists, pacifists, and the like) and racial, sexual, ethnic, and religious minorities were not included until later. If we are to give Poland a pass on the actions that happened in its borders because its native population both resisted and were slaughtered, surely Germany also gets a pass on the same logic?
But if I were to sum up this entire argument, it would be with this one quote, also from Obama’s letter:
Moreover, there simply were no “Polish death camps.” The killing centers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Treblinka, and elsewhere in occupied Poland were built and operated by the Nazi regime.
So there were no “Polish death camps,” you stupid liberal, but there were death camps in Poland. Just as there were no “Polish concentration camps” but there were concentration camps built by communists.
Again, it does not matter, the “Poland is a good boy” crowd will continue playing moronic semantic games until the end of time hoping you can’t be bothered to think about how the games they’re playing make no difference. If it was about any other event, it would be comical, but considering it’s about the most infamous geocide in human history, it comes off as sad.
I’m not trying to “shame Poland for the Holocaust,” as I know some will accuse me of. Unlike the nationalists who run Poland at the moment, I view the citizens of Poland as more than their nations. However, if a nation wants to screw with history, then I will shame them for that — and that, at the end of the day, is what Poland has done.