Polish demonstrators protest restitution for Jews (Photo: Reuters)
Israel should not expect anything new from Poland
23.05.2019, Israel and the World
Why Israelis all so surprised by the latest statements of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Jakub Morawiecki this week? He pronounced restitution of Jewish property as a win for Adolf Hitler, claiming that his people were the real victims of the Nazis.
In his words, "Poland suffered in the Second World War. Tens of thousands of Polish soldiers were murdered by the invading army. We will not accept Poland paying for the damage caused."
Strong words uttered in - of all places - Lodz, where the second-largest Jewish community in Europe lived, a quarter of a million people strong, and the second-largest confiscation of Jewish property by Poles took place, including my family's property.
What did we expect? Did we think the Polish prime minister would stand up on stage, during an important election rally, pound his chest with a clenched fist, in the style of the Jewish Confessional Prayer, and say, "We have trespassed, we have betrayed, we have stolen"?
Did we think he would say that he loses sleep over the fact that Polish people are using property really owned by Jews as if they were the rightful owners? Is he sorry that Polish citizens are living in homes belonging to Jews, conducting business from stores owned by Jews, having a jolly old time in restaurants that were once Jewish synagogues, staying in hotels that were once Jewish seminaries, using old Jewish cemeteries as football fields or construction sites?
Do you think he will then invite the descendants of Polish Jews or the State of Israel as their representative, to come claim this property? We are talking about billions of dollars that could sort out the Israeli economy for years to come, not to mention families of survivors living in Israel or anywhere else around the world.
We are fooling ourselves. We've been kidding ourselves since we first believed in a "new Germany."
The State of Israel as well as certain individuals, had a financial, strategic, cultural, and personal motivation to forge diplomatic relations with Germany, followed by all the other countries in Europe that are drenched in Jewish blood and grew rich on Jewish property. Poland is front and center among these nations.
But by turning the page or wiping the slate clean, we were not changing the DNA of these nations nor their view of Jewish people. Not in Poland nor in any of these countries, either active or passive in our extermination at the hands of the Nazis and their cohorts.
Our rush to board the low-cost flights to random Polish airports in Katowice, Wrocław or Poznan, all sites of ancient Jewish communities now wiped out, does not hide the fact that shouting about a Jewish plot to bankrupt the Polish people is an effective slogan in times of elections and beyond.
Thousands of cheering Poles responding to the prime minister did not surprise me. We have not yet heard the end of it.
Each of us can make up our own minds about Poland, or any other site of Jewish carnage. We can travel, visit, enjoy or dispatch our children to any marvelous old castle, beautiful beach or solemn death camp. But let's not be blinded by the normalization of relations.
The Polish people will continue to prosper from Jewish property unless they are squeezed by massive international pressure, which is unlikely to come. The opportunity, it seems, has already been missed.
The current generation in Poland regards Jews as their predecessors did. Visiting Israelis sharing a beer with them will not change that.
Hitler though, will be laughing in his grave, such as it is, at Israeli naivete. He knew full well why he chose Poland as the site of most of the Nazi death camps in Europe.
By Shoshana Chen