Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Silence Isn’t Always Golden

On February 1st the Polish Senate passed a bill that leaves me somewhat perplexed.

As soon as President Andrzej Duda signs the legislation into law, it will be illegal—and punishable by up to three years in prison—to claim that Poland was complicit in any Nazi atrocities committed on Polish soil during World War II.

“We the Poles, were victims, as were the Jews, “ Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said Wednesday right before the vote. “It is a duty of every Pole to defend the good name of Poland.”

During WWII, Germans killed at least 3 million Jewish citizens of Poland in addition to 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Nazis established some of the most notorious extermination camps of the Holocaust on Polish soil, including Auschwitz-Birkenau where nearly 1 million Jews and 75,000 non-Jewish Poles died.

There is little doubt that the people of Poland were victimized by the Nazis. Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims recognizes thousands of Polish people as “Righteous Among the Nations.” Many Polish non-Jews took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust. These brave men and women are heroes.

However, there were others who were not righteous. Jewish historian Jonathon Tobin recently wrote, “Anti-Semitism was endemic in pre-Holocaust Poland. Many, if not most Poles were largely indifferent to the fate of their Jewish compatriots.” Jews were being massacred by their Polish neighbors in 1941. In a well-documented incident in 1946, forty-two Jews were killed by police and townspeople in Kielce, Poland.

Don’t these atrocities contradict the government’s claim that no Polish people committed crimes against Jews during WWII? Is the Polish government now attempting to forbid free speech to erase a painful and complicated time in world history?

What about the Allied forces?

The extermination plan was smuggled out of Poland by a Jewish political organization (The Bund) and reached England in 1942. Details were also smuggled from Poland and Switzerland to the Vatican and forwarded to the Allies.

An emissary of the Polish underground met personally with President Franklin Roosevelt and British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden in November 1942. It is absurd to say that our governments didn’t know what was happening to Polish Jews.

A quote by Albert Einstein is displayed in the Dallas Holocaust Museum. It says: “The world is too dangerous to live in—not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen.”

I’m not questioning that hindsight continues to reveal disturbing facts about the Holocaust. What concerns me is the misleading intent of the Polish bill, and a similar mindset in our own country.

Our children’s text books are being rewritten to make us look better. We are changing what is taught about abuse of the Native Americans who were here before colonization. We don’t want to admit that our ancestors got rich buying and selling people from Africa into slavery. Statues and memorials from the Civil War are being taken down and destroyed because it is offensive to see the stark ugliness of our history.

People have committed and will continue to commit atrocities… not because people are inherently bad, but because sin is unchallenged. Can we really afford to deny historical hindsight and painful repentance to the generations that follow us?

I hope that Polish people will eventually admit that not all of them were perfect. I hope we can too.

Scripture is clear on this matter. “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)