A law has recently been passed by the Polish Parliament’s Lower House criminalizing any mention of Polish crimes or complicity during the Shoah. As a consequence, all of a sudden, concentration and death camps will lose their context. Things just happened, no Polish people were ever involved. Jews, maybe, built the camps themselves and did everything on their own. Impossible to even speak about them.
But as I am a very practical person, I sincerely wonder how one can conceive of such a reality.
If Polish death camps are no more to be considered Polish, and no Poles knew about them, or saw them, or did anything to make them possible, where are Nazi camps on Polish land to be located? Would this formulation be allowed then?
Maybe, as there are stateless people owning no passport, there will also be weird cases of stateless concentration and death camps. Or, maybe, Oświęcim, Bełżec, Chełmno, Gross-Rosen (or Rogoźnica), Majdanek, Kraków-Płaszów, Sobibór, Stutthof, Treblinka could be moved from Poland to some other country, and someone else could be blamed for what was done on Polish land with the help of the Poles. Concentration and death camps could be moved to Germany, for instance, there are already plenty of them. No one will notice and that would make everything more consistent.
It is easier to blame Germans for the occupation and deportation, rather than coming to grips with the past and with the responsibilities, especially when you don’t have a clear conscience.
Poland is now trying to reverse the course of history and its interpretation. If the law forbidding any mention of Polish involvement in the Shoah is approved, Auschwitz and all the other camps will be no man’s land, the barracks and the bricks and the wood they were made of will have come from nowhere, and nobody ever built them; the eyes that saw tortured people starving and dying from behind the barbed wire, the ears that heard their desperation will belong to no one, the noses that smelled the pungent and heavy smoke coming out of the chimneys will be all but Polish.
Only the dead will still have owners.
But no one will have killed them. Someone will tell us they just wished to die.
*Susanna Calimani is a wandering economist currently based in Frankfurt.