Employing his diplomatic immunity, Netanyahu will repeat the taboo phrase for the duration of his speech.
Jerusalem, January 29 – Sources within the Prime Minister’s Office reported today that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will deliver an address to the Polish legislature later this week consisting entirely of the phrase “Polish death camps” repeated again and again.
The Israeli premier will deliver remarks to the Zgromadzenie Narodowe, or National Assembly, this coming Thursday, as part of worldwide observances around International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date of the observance coincides with the anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945, the deadliest of many Nazi-run facilities on Polish soil for the extermination of Europe’s Jews and other “undesirables.”
The lower house of Poland’s parliament passed a measure last week outlawing mention of any role Polish government entities may have had in the Holocaust, riding a wave of nationalist sentiment and insecurity over the country’s history as both a victim of Nazi brutality and the host of the majority of the Holocaust’s labor and extermination camps focused on destroying the Jewish population. The law specifically outlaws the phrase “Polish death camps,” a locution that many Poles feel implies an unjust focus on a Polish role in the atrocities, when in fact the camps were a German project, just as “Spanish flu,” “German measles,” “African sleeping sickness,” and “Swedish meatballs” unjustly make the listener or reader assign collective responsibility to the locales invoked. Employing his diplomatic immunity, Netanyahu will repeat the taboo phrase for the duration of his speech.
The Nazis relied heavily on local sympathizers in all occupied regions, meaning that the implementation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem” in Poland could not have occurred without the collaboration of Poles. Of an estimated Jewish population on the eve of the Second World War of 3.5 million, only about half a million Jews survived, and Jews from other parts of Europe were also deported to the Polish killing centers. Extermination camps became the norm only after extensive German efforts to isolate and kill as many Jews as possible by firing squad, operations that often involved Polish paramilitary auxiliaries. The topic of Polish complicity, condoning, or active participation in the killing has constituted a sensitive issue ever since.
Holocaust research and commemoration institutions recognize thousands of Poles who risked their lives to rescue Jews from the killing, a figure that far outstrips the number of “righteous gentiles” from other lands under Nazi rule. However, historians note, far more Jews lived in Poland than elsewhere to begin with, such that the absolute number of such heroes in Poland has little statistical bearing on the prevalence of Polish participation in the Final Solution.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office disclosed that the initial proposal called for Netanyahu to intone “Polish death camps” one time for each Jew murdered on Polish soil, but that would require a speech lasting months even without breaks to eat, sleep, or answer nature’s call. Instead, they explained, the number of times Netanyahu will utter, “Polish death camps” will reach 600, or one mention for every approximately 6,667 Jews killed on Polish soil.
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