So where should the line be drawn? For the one and only Jewish state, antisemitism is a good place to start taking a strong stand, as is the Holocaust.
The outrage over the joint statement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, was entirely predictable after Poland ran a victory lap by publishing it in major newspapers in Israel and Europe, because the declaration entirely misses the point.
The complex role of Poland in the Holocaust can, in a way, be summed up by story of Simon Srebnik the opening segment of “Shoah,” the seminal documentary by director Claude Lanzmann, who died Thursday at 92.
Srebnik was one of only two survivors of Chelmno, a death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland – the location of all six death camps.
He, along with thousands of other living prisoners in Chelmno, was shot in the head as Soviet troops approached, but the bullet did not kill him.
Thirteen years old at the time, Srebnik was saved by a Polish farmer and treated by a Soviet doctor.
When Srebnik returned to the town of Chelmno 40 years later, the locals remembered him, because of his singing voice, and said they were glad to see him.
They said he looked like a corpse back then, and “they couldn’t help knowing” everything that was happening next door. “The Jews moaned, they were hungry,” one resident said. And yet, although the Chelmno residents knew the Jews were being starved and gassed, they said their suitcases – kept in the local church – were “full of gold,” and “they also had gold in their clothes,” and “valuables.” And the reason the Nazis wanted to kill them is “because they were the richest.”
The antisemitism then ramped up from one nasty trope – the greedy, gold-loving Jew – to another: the Christ-killers. “The Jews condemned the innocent Christ to death,” seemed like a pertinent detail to one, who contended that the rabbi of Chelmno claimed responsibility for Jesus’ death, and said this was punishment. “It was God’s will, that’s all!”
In other words, they were glad to see Srebnik alive – but he deserved to die. Continue reading