Op Ed: Uncomfortable Truths for Comfortable Collaborators

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hik[By NYS Assemblyman Dov Hikind]

I applauded when James B. Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, so candidly and guilelessly admitted last week the terrible truth that too few people ever want to acknowledge: Hitlerian anti-Semitism did not exist in a vacuum.

While monsters like Hitler, Goebbels, Bormann, Eichmann, Mengele (their names should be erased) stand out as the most notorious of the Nazi murderers, these individuals were truly the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg itself was not made up solely of men who rose to power in a Germany gone mad. The iceberg—or icebergs, as it were—were the tens of thousands of individuals from neighboring Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and Hungry who participated willfully, knowingly, and often gleefully in the humiliation, brutalization, and eventual murder of their Jewish countrymen.

“In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil,” said Comey. “They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.”

It certainly frightens me. And what’s equally frightening is when people, well-meaning or otherwise, deny the very facts surrounding the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust. In so doing, they pave the way to not only future atrocities but make allowances for the current wave of violent anti-Semitism that Europe is now experiencing.

Rather than angrily denounce FBI Director Comey for speaking uncomfortable truths that they’d rather not hear, Polish political leaders, if they were honest, should accept the crimes of their forebears, as many in Germany have done. The past can neither be forgiven nor forgotten, but steps can be taken to ensure that monstrous misdeeds are not repeated. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has done just that. Indeed, today’s German government seems eager to distance itself from the barbarous German Nazi regime. As any destructive addict who finally sought salvation will explain, admitting the problem is the most important first step.

My parents and their families were victims of Nazi atrocities. With the help of G-d, they survived the camps and the raging anti-Semitism that swept last century’s Eastern Europe. They saw with their own eyes that neither Hitler, his henchmen, nor even the Germans alone were the isolated villains. Indeed, my mother (may she rest in peace) and many others were quick to point out that the cruelty of the Poles (and the Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Hungarians) often belittled the methodical murders of the occupying German Nazis. The Nazis could never have been successful in exporting torture and mass extermination without the acquiescence and willing participation of the Poles and other peoples of host nations where these murderous acts occurred. They didn’t just stand by and allow six million men, women and children to be systematically murdered: They participated. And they did so voluntarily. They played a major role.

The 93-year-old Nazi now on trial in Germany speaks about his guilt. “It is beyond question that I am morally complicit,” he says. What he won’t admit, though, is that he actually did anything. “I did not take part,” he says.

And this is what Polish political leaders want us to believe about their grandparents. No one did anything. Just a handful of German Brown Shirts.

Yitzhak Shamir, the seventh Prime Minister of Israel, once noted—to equivalent Polish outrage—that “every Pole sucked anti-Semitism with his mother’s milk.” Perhaps the Prime Minister was engaging in a modicum of hyperbole. The word “every” does not allow for those who we honor each year as “the righteous among the nations.” But the exception often proves the rule. After all, how many Jewish camp survivors, withered and orphaned, were murdered by Polish farmers when they finally returned to their homes? A denouncement of those atrocities by Polish officials is still forthcoming.

So I applaud FBI Director Comey. What he said was honest, simple, and direct. It’s not said enough. Comey’s words were a moment of sobering candor and reality that he should not apologize for. And neither should we.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Very well said. I too have been trying to understand what the Polish leaders want(and much more importantly, why American officials are scrambling to make up for the FBI directors true words) when history speaks for itself.

  2. 1. The holocaust required broad based support, or at least, a decision not to object. The proof of this is found by looking at what happened in countries such as Finland (and to a lesser extent Bulgaria) which were allied with Germany, and in Denmark (which was conquered and occupied). If the locals said “no”, few Jews died.

    2. Since we now know that the Americans and British had full knowledge of the holocaust throughout the war (through the recently declassified Ultra-transcripts of intercepted German communications), decisions of the American and British governments not to provide asylum have to be understood as making them more than misinformed bystanders.

    3. Countries such as Germany and Hungary had democratically elected governments. To avoid hurting their feelings, we say they were run by dictators, but these dictators were voted in. They were involved in the holocaust because they decided to be. Countries such as Poland and the Netherlands were conquered and suffered a nasty military occupation. Poland which was double crossed several times by its allies, had disasterously high casulties among its non-Jewish population. The Allied countries paid a high price in defeating Germany, which we should remember.

    4. Many non-Jewish individuals opposed the holocaust and tried to help, often at great risk. Many Jews collaborated (especially among the more secular). American reform Jews were among the leading opponents of the Allies doing anything to rescue European Jews.

    5. Virtually all Europeans opposed the Nazis after May of 1945, with their support be retroactive to 1939. This is a “legal fiction” that allows the world to go on, though we do need to remember it is a fiction, albeit a necessary one if we are to live in peace.

    6. Even though the holocaust gave rise to the word “genocide” the concept is hardly new. One must remember that the English speaking world in the 16th century consisted solely of England, and that in the many countries now English speaking, some other language was spoken 500 years ago – and that the people in those countries neither left nor changed language but were victims of genocide. The only thing new in the 20th century was treating genocide as a crime (at least when the side doing the killing loses the war).

  3. The Zionists themselves lobbied governments AGAINST allowing Jews in to their countries because the Zionists insisted on only Palestine, even though the British weren’t interested in allowing that due to Zionist inflammation on the local Arabs in Palestine.