Enough. It's not OK to disparage Poland's World War II record. No country fought Nazi Germany longer or sacrificed a larger percentage of its people to Hitler's death machine than Poland. Enough.
Glenn Beck said last week: "We're turning into the Poles. The smoke is billowing out of the chimney and we're like, 'Geez, have you seen the potholes...?' They're burning Jews right down the street!"
Beck's suggestion that Poland did nothing is indefensible.
No country did more to rescue Jews during the Holocaust than Poland. Check the facts. To date, there are 6,454 Poles honored at Israel's Yad Vashem. And each one of them had many more Poles who helped them carry out their mission.
Poland was the only occupied country where Nazi Germany instituted the death penalty for helping Jews. On Oct. 15, 1941, Gen. Hans Frank, the German Governor, moved into Wawel Castle in Krakow and had placards posted across the city, "Concerning: The Sheltering of Escaping Jews." It said: "This is a categorical warning to the non-Jewish population against: 1) Providing shelter to Jews, 2) Supplying them with food, 3) Selling them Foodstuffs." Violators would be punished with the "death penalty."
On Nov. 10, 1941, Dr. Ludwig Fischer, the German Governor in Warsaw, issued this notice: The "death penalty" shall be imposed on Poles "who knowingly provide shelter or other help [to Jews] (such as providing nightly accommodation, maintenance, or providing transportation in vehicles of any type, etc.)" These rules will be "applied with merciless austerity."
The Germans routinely killed entire Polish families, women and children, who rescued Jews.
So how did the Poles respond to this death threat? They established Zegota, "The Council to Aid Jews." This clandestine organization rescued tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. A Polish nurse, Irena Sendler, rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto and found thousands of Poles willing to hide them.
Polish Captain Witold Pilecki, of the underground Home Army, volunteered to be captured and sent to the German concentration camp Auschwitz so that he could report on what was happening. In 1942, the Poles published and distributed a detailed report to world leaders titled "The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland."
The world's leaders ignored this report.
Yes, there were anti-Semites in Poland whose behavior was deplorable. And yes, some individual Poles were afraid of the Germans and sold out Jews and those who hid them. These blackmailers were dubbed szmalcownicy. The Polish underground hunted down these traitors and killed them.
Could Poland have done more to save Jews during World War II?
Yes, but NO country did more than Poland during the war to save the Jews.
There was Zofia Baniecka who along with her mother hid more than 50 Jews in their home during the war. There was Wladyslaw Kowalski who hid dozens of Jews in various homes around Warsaw. Henryk Wolinski hid more than 25 Jews in his apartment. The list goes on and on, and it's much larger because these people did it in secret, so that the Germans would not kill them.
And then there is Jan Karski. The Home Army gave Karski a secret mission. He snuck into the Warsaw ghetto where the Germans corralled Jewish prisoners and reported on their condition. Karski also went to see the railroad transfer stations where the Germans were sending Jews to death camps.
The Polish government in exile sent Karski to London and Washington D.C. to inform Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the concentration camps, yet the British and American leaders did nothing.
This while Poles like the Ulma family from the village of Markowa gave their lives to save their neighbors. Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma had six children. The youngest was 2 and the oldest was 8. Wiktoria was pregnant with her seventh child.
Yet the German death penalty did not dissuade the Ulmas from hiding Jews. They hid six members of the Szali family, as well as Golda and Layka Goldman. On March 24, 1944, the Germans executed the Ulma family and their Jewish guests. It's estimated that the Germans killed 50,000 Poles during World War II for rescuing Jews.
Glenn Beck's suggestion that the Poles did nothing is despicable. It's a fairy tale.
By making such an assertion, Beck besmirches the legacy of Karski, Pilecki, Sendler, Zegota, the Ulma Family, and the millions of Poles who stood up to the Nazi threat longer than anyone else.