CORNELL UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
Feb. 6, 2018
Polish Holocaust bill replaces historical truth with myth
Newswise — Poland’s president Andrzej Duda announced on Tuesday that he would sign a bill - already passed by the Polish legislature - banning accusations of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes against Poles.
Enzo Traverso, historian of modern and contemporary Europe at Cornell University, has authored several books about mass violence in Europe during the 20th century, including “The European Civil War 1914-1945” and “The Origins of Nazi Violence.” Traverso says that the bill, by painting Poland as intrinsically virtuous and innocent, is nationalistic and irresponsible.
“The tremendous sufferings of Poland under Nazi occupation have been investigated and carefully described by many historical studies; they belong, far beyond Polish and international scholarship, to our common historical consciousness.
“Many scholars have brought evidence of the help and protection that thousands of Polish citizens gave to the persecuted Jews, as well as of the widespread Polish anti-Semitism that inevitably created a favorable environment for the Holocaust.
“Some pogroms took place even at the end of the war. The history of both contemporary Poland and the Holocaust are and will be the objects of new interpretations, but these facts are universally known and accepted.
“The Holocaust bill announced by president Andrzej Duda simply fulfills a nationalistic goal, by proclaiming Poland as a sacred national community that is intrinsically virtuous and innocent. But nations intrinsically pure and innocent do not exist. This bill replaces historical truth with national mythology and is politically irresponsible.”
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