May 23, 2019

I love Poland

“Yes: I love Poland.

How to love a people who supposedly “imbibe anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk,” in the words of our new foreign minister, Israel Katz?

No matter how much time passes, Poland remains the place of our inconsolable pain. The grandfather whose name I carry, along with dozens of my family members, were transported and murdered there. The deep hatred against Jews that infected significant parts of Polish society even during and immediately after the Holocaust years lingers.

And yet a people deserves to be judged by its best sons and daughters, not its worst. And Poland’s best are among the very best of humanity, and among the Jewish people’s most trusted friends.

I love the Poland that gave us more trees on Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous than any other nation by far, even though the penalty for aiding a Jew was more severe in Poland than elsewhere in Europe — the murder of one’s entire family. There were Poles who betrayed Jews in hiding and murdered their Jewish neighbors. But I also remember Jan Karski, a devout Catholic and resistance fighter who twice smuggled himself into the Warsaw Ghetto and then into a transit camp for Jews on their way to the Belzec death camp and traveled to the West to personally plead with world leaders, including President Roosevelt, to save the Jews. Somehow his Polish mother’s milk wasn’t infected with hatred.”

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