Poland – Polish official says don’t compare WWII suffering of Poles, Jews: ‘All were victims’

Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski in Tel Aviv, June 6, 2023 (Lazar Berman/The Times of Israel)

Warsaw – Poland’s deputy foreign minister said in Tel Aviv that he saw no justification for distinguishing between the Nazi treatment of Jewish and Christian Poles in World War II.

“Many peoples in Central Europe were also targeted to a very large degree and millions were killed,” Pawel Jablonski told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “It’s not like this is a race over who was the bigger victim. We were all victims. We all suffered under the German war machine. We don’t see a legitimate reason to now compare where this victim suffered more than this victim if we suffered all together.

“There were camps for Catholic priests, for example, and thousands of Polish priests were murdered,” said Jablonski, who oversees Warsaw’s relations with the Middle East and Africa. “It’s not like we want to compete. It’s not like we want to say, oh, we suffered more, we suffered less, but we suffered 15% less, or maybe 20% less. It’s not a race. It’s not like we want to be in some scoreboards who suffered more.”

Jablonski was in Israel at the head of a Polish government delegation as the countries seek to mend their frayed ties. He met National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Foreign Minister Director General Ronen Levy to discuss, according to Warsaw, “stopping the Russian aggression against Ukraine,” as well as bilateral cooperation on economic, cultural and educational matters.

Jablonski argued that such narratives distort the history of Poland’s experience in the war, turning the victim into the perpetrator.

“We just want to have it recognized that we are a victim of the Second World War and the fact that a few collaborators were there, as in every nation at the same time,” he said. “We never had a collaboration government, like in France or in other countries, where there were governments collaborating with the Nazis.

“We feel falsely accused of being complicit with something that we are actually the victims of…this is something out of proportion here.”

Poland was the first country invaded and occupied by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s regime during World War II and never had a collaborationist government. Members of Poland’s resistance and government-in-exile struggled to warn the world about the mass killing of Jews, and thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews.

However, Holocaust researchers have collected ample evidence of Polish people who murdered Jews who were fleeing the Nazis, and Polish blackmailers who preyed on helpless Jews for financial gain.

Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Yacov Livne, told The Times of Israel that, like that of other countries in Europe, Poland’s record during the war is mixed.

“I believe most scholars today agree – and this is probably true for Poland and for other countries occupied by Nazi Germany – that there was a minority that saved Jews, and there were others that collaborated,” he said.

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