Earlier this week, the Polish President Andrzej Duda signed a controversial new Holocaust bill. If also passed by the country's Constitutional Tribunal, the law would make it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust. It would also ban the use of terms such as "Polish death camps" in relation to Auschwitz and other such camps located in Nazi-occupied Poland.
In this statement, EUJS and WUJS Presidents Ali Bricman and Avigayil Benstein eloquently highlight the unique positioning of Poland's history in relation to the Holocaust. As they argue, 'we must have a heightened sensitivity to the genuine attempts of Poland to heal itself of the dark horrors of the Second World War. But we must be adamant in saying that this healing will never occur without an honest and open dialogue and it will never occur without a commitment to education rather than condemnation.'
Our recent campaign #OurLivingMemory highlighted the importance of young people from all backgrounds committing to keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, particularly as many survivors are no longer with us. In the words of Ali and Avigayil, 'Young people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, have the essential mission and moral obligation to take the stories of those who survived to the ears of those who will never know survivors. Seventy-three years after the liberation of Auschwitz, this process is being blatantly hindered by the changes introduced by the Polish parliament and approved by President Andrzej Duda to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance.'
UJS supports the joint statement of EUJS and WUJS. We are proud to be a member of both organisations and urge the Polish government to prioritise education, not criminalisation, to ensure that history can never be allowed to repeat itself.