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Factual Errors Mar New Jersey
Brooklyn, N.Y. .. In a letter addressed to New Jersey’s Department of Education, the Holocaust Documentation Committee of the Polish American Congress is asking the agency to remove a series of false statements about Poland and the Polish people appearing in the Holocaust curriculum displayed on its website.
The misrepresentations blame Poland for atrocities committed against Jews during the Holocaust. They also imply the Polish people were not one of Hitler’s victims but, instead, were one of his Allies. An Ally he used to help him murder Jews “because Hitler would have to justify his actions to the Germans” and the Poles “made it easier for him to accomplish his goals.”
In its letter to the Department of Education, the Holocaust Documentation Committee called it “more than merely an absurd accusation. It is a shameful fraud perpetrated against Poland and against the schoolchildren of New Jersey.”
Below is the text of the committee’s letter:
August 4, 2014
David C. Hespe,
New Jersey Dept. of Education
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500
Dear Mr. Hespe:
New Jersey’s Dept. of Education’s website displays a curriculum titled, “Teaching About the Holocaust.” It states this curriculum was “Reviewed, Edited and Disseminated” by the Commission on Holocaust Education.
We would like to inquire about the extent to which New Jersey uses it to teach the Holocaust. We understand you were appointed Acting Commissioner of Education only recently and you may not be aware of this curriculum’s shortcomings and defects.
The matter was brought to our attention by constituents of ours residing in your state. They recognized numerous errors and omissions which could easily confuse and mislead students into adopting attitudes of prejudice against Poland and the Polish American community.
Our Holocaust Documentation Committee was founded by a Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz just prior to the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993. Although most survivors have already passed on, we are fortunate to still have one of the very first prisoners of Auschwitz, a Polish Catholic sent there shortly after it opened in June, 1940.
Polish Christians constituted the largest group of prisoners for the first 2 ½ years of the war. Your curriculum confirms this little-known fact when it identifies the Wannsee Conference of 1942 as the event at which the Germans formulated the Final Solution and began the intensive persecution of Europe’s Jews.
In its introduction, your curriculum states it wants students to “understand the enormity and depth of the Holocaust.” It describes victims of the Holocaust as Jews and others from “targeted groups.” Strangely, these “targeted groups” are never identified. Poland, of course, represented the major component of the groups. But Poles were not only victims. Right from the day the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 until the day the war ended in May 1945, Poland’s underground resistance was the largest and most effective anti-Nazi resistance in all of German-occupied Europe. Yet, your curriculum misrepresents Poland’s wartime role by implying Hitler placed his extermination camps in Poland instead of Germany “because Hitler would have to justify his actions to the Germans, while the Polish government…made it easier for him to accomplish his goals.” This is more than merely an absurd accusation. It is a shameful Holocaust fraud perpetrated against Poland and against the schoolchildren of New Jersey.
Poland’s wartime losses were catastrophic. Six million Polish citizens had been killed by the time it all ended: three million Polish Jews and three million Polish Christians, together representing 22% of the nation’s population, proportionately larger than any other country’s.
Those who were members of New Jersey’s Commission on Holocaust Education and “Reviewed, Edited and Disseminated” this curriculum appear to have lacked qualifications to authorize its use as a valid educational tool. Their perspective conflicts dramatically, for example, with Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial which honors Poland as the country with the largest number of “Righteous Gentiles” who risked their lives to save Jews. More Poles were killed trying to rescue Jews than anyone else.
Two years ago, President Obama awarded his Presidential Medal of Freedom to the great Polish Catholic hero, Jan Karski who today is known as “the man who tried to stop the Holocaust.” Poland’s wartime government and the Polish underground resistance sent him to England and the United States to warn the Allies, specifically President Roosevelt, that Hitler had begun the Holocaust. Your curriculum, however, instructs New Jersey students that the Polish government “already persecuted the Jews” and “made it easier for him (Hitler) to accomplish his goals.”
Your curriculum also charges Poland “has a long history of anti-Semitism.” This long history, however, dates back to the Middle Ages and before. When the nations of Western Europe were expelling their Jews, Poland opened its borders to offer them a safe haven. Poland’s welcome was so warm that 80% of Europe’s Jews chose to eventually live there. They were accepted and allowed to have their language, religion and culture flourish as nowhere else.
The attempt to discredit Poland’s image and reputation is most obvious in the second part of the Kristallnacht section, a totally incongruous place to include it since this was a pre-war event in Germany. It has every appearance of being a malevolent afterthought aimed at tarnishing Poland’s good name. Its out-of-context misplacement warrants its total removal.
The Polish people support the teaching of Holocaust history — but taught truthfully and without anti-Polish malice. Polish suffering and Polish resistance to the Nazis and the Communists are an essential part of this history. That Hitler made the Polish people one of the Holocaust’s major targets attests to the magnitude of this horrific crime. “Never Again” are words a Pole could speak just as loudly and just as articulately as any Jew would.
Frank Milewski, Chair