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July 29, 2016 1

Poland: Revisionism, Remembrance, Revival

“…the mem­o­ries will stay with me long into the future.”

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

The 75th Anniversary Commemoration of the Polish Pogrom at Jedwabne

The 75th Anniver­sary Com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Pol­ish Pogrom at Jedwabne

In the clos­ing days of my first year on the job as ADL CEO, I selected Poland as the site for my first inter­na­tional ADL lead­er­ship mis­sion. His­tor­i­cal events in Poland will for­ever anchor the coun­try to ADL’s found­ing pur­pose — to pro­tect the Jew­ish peo­ple. And con­tem­po­rary devel­op­ments give us cause for new concern.

A small group of ADL’s top national lead­er­ship joined me on this trip, includ­ing National Chair Mar­vin Nathan, to pur­sue three goals: (1) to demon­strate sol­i­dar­ity with the Pol­ish Jew­ish com­mu­nity in the face of increas­ing Holo­caust revi­sion­ism and anti-Semitic polit­i­cal speech, (2) to com­mem­o­rate vic­tims of anti-Semitism, and (3) to wit­ness the inspir­ing revival of Jew­ish life in Poland. This was my first visit to Poland – and the mem­o­ries will stay with me long into the future.


The urgency of the first goal became even most appar­ent the day after our visit con­cluded, when Poland’s Edu­ca­tion Min­is­ter Anna Zalewska repeat­edly refused to acknowl­edge dur­ing a tele­vised inter­view that Pol­ish cit­i­zens were respon­si­ble for killing their Jew­ish neigh­bors dur­ing anti-Semitic pogroms in Jed­wabne and Kielce dur­ing and after World War II.  The con­tro­versy was the top story in the Pol­ish press.

The ADL del­e­ga­tion had attended the 75th anniver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Jed­wabne mas­sacre just days ear­lier. Together with Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schu­drich, lead­ers of the Pol­ish Jew­ish com­mu­nity, and painfully few oth­ers, we mourned the hun­dreds of Jews, mur­dered by their Pol­ish Catholic neigh­bors on July 10, 1941, while the town was under Nazi occu­pa­tion. Most of the Jews were forced into a barn, which was then set on fire.

At the Jedwabne memorial with ADL National Chair Marvin Nathan

At the Jed­wabne memo­r­ial with ADL National Chair Mar­vin Nathan

The events of the Jed­wabne pogrom were largely unknown until 2001. While cen­trist Pol­ish lead­ers have apol­o­gized to the Jew­ish com­mu­nity for the mas­sacre, Pol­ish nation­al­ists have rejected Pol­ish respon­si­bil­ity. They con­tend that accu­sa­tions of Pol­ish respon­si­bil­ity are smears against Poland’s rep­u­ta­tion. The recent rise of the far-right in Poland led to the elec­tion in Octo­ber 2015 of the Law and Jus­tice party, some of whose gov­ern­ment min­is­ters had caused us deep con­cern, even before Edu­ca­tion Min­is­ter Zalewska’s comments.

While the small Jew­ish com­mu­nity in Poland has suf­fered very few anti-Semitic inci­dents, the polit­i­cal atmos­phere has notice­ably changed in Poland with increas­ing anti-Semitic rhetoric on the far-right.  The con­tro­versy over Jed­wabne is its sym­bol.  The week we were there a major news mag­a­zine, W Siece, put on its cover a burn­ing barn and the head­line, “Jed­wabne: We need to inves­ti­gate anew.”

Polish Paper

Speak­ing at the Jed­wabne com­mem­o­ra­tion, in front of a small memo­r­ial on the site of the barn, moved me as much as any­thing else I have done in my first year at ADL. It was an incred­i­bly pow­er­ful moment. I pledged on behalf of ADL to remem­ber the vic­tims, to pro­tect that mem­ory from dis­tor­tion by those who would re-write his­tory for their own polit­i­cal pur­poses, and to stand in sol­i­dar­ity with the cur­rent Jew­ish com­mu­nity against the chal­lenges they face.

Speaking at the Jedwabne commemoration, July 10

Speak­ing at the Jed­wabne com­mem­o­ra­tion, July 10

The next day we met with gov­ern­ment lead­ers, includ­ing For­eign Min­is­ter Witold Waszczykowski, and told them directly of our con­cerns. We expressed appre­ci­a­tion for Pres­i­dent Andrzej Duda’s remarks at the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Kielce pogrom, where he said “there is no room for anti-Semitism” in Poland and acknowl­edged that “ordi­nary [Pol­ish] peo­ple were involved in the attack.”  But, we noted that no senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial had con­demned the burn­ing of an effigy of a Has­sidic Jew at a far-right demon­stra­tion just weeks after Law and Jus­tice came to power.  We were dis­ap­pointed in For­eign Min­is­ter Waszczykowski’s dis­mis­sive atti­tude toward the issue.

The ADL delegation meeting with Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski and ministry officials

The ADL del­e­ga­tion meet­ing with For­eign Min­is­ter Witold Waszczykowski and min­istry officials

We reminded Min­is­ter Waszczykowski that ADL has been a lead­ing voice against the defam­a­tory phrase “Pol­ish death camps” (which should be “Nazi death camps”), and we expected Poland’s lead­ers to speak out against anti-Semitic rhetoric or inci­dents to demon­strate that anti-Semitism is unac­cept­able in Poland.  Given the per­va­sive belief in Jew­ish stereo­types among the Pol­ish pub­lic, as shown in ADL’s Global 100 sur­vey, we under­scored the impor­tance of such con­dem­na­tions.  From the For­eign Min­istry, we left for Krakow and our visit the fol­low­ing day to Auschwitz.


At Auschwitz, after a long tour of hor­rors, we stood in front of a pit where ashes from the cre­ma­to­ria were dumped by the Nazis as they imple­mented the Final Solu­tion. We said Kad­dish, but noth­ing else other than silence seemed appro­pri­ate. No other moment in the past year has so vis­cer­ally rein­forced my com­mit­ment to ADL’s mission.

The ash pit and a destroyed crematorium at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Past National Chair Glen Lewy and National Commissioner Michael Sheetz.

The ash pit and a destroyed cre­ma­to­rium at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Past National Chair Glen Lewy and National Com­mis­sioner Michael Sheetz.

ADL’s edu­ca­tion pro­grams present our Pyra­mid of Hate with geno­cide at its apex. I had just seen another pyra­mid of hate, a moun­tain of shoes taken from thou­sands of Jews mur­dered over the course of just a few hours.

Shoe Exhibit - Poland

ADL National Chair Marvin Nathan at the shoe exhibit in Auschwitz

ADL National Chair Mar­vin Nathan at the shoe exhibit in Auschwitz

Pon­der­ing a cat­tle car at Auschwitz-Birkenau, I thought about Elie Wiesel, the unsur­passed mas­ter of bear­ing wit­ness, who must have arrived at this spot in one just like it.  His pass­ing on July 2 bereaved us all.

ADL delegation at Auschwitz-Birkenau in front of a cattle car used for deportations.

ADL del­e­ga­tion at Auschwitz-Birkenau in front of a cat­tle car used for deportations.


The Jew­ish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter of Krakow is an hour from Auschwitz by car and couldn’t be far­ther by nature. The JCC is a scene of Jew­ish revival and of opti­mism. Jew­ish iden­tity is cel­e­brated, and young Poles with Jew­ish roots are affil­i­at­ing with their her­itage. Under the impres­sive lead­er­ship of its Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Jonathan Orn­stein, the JCC offers oppor­tu­ni­ties for all to con­nect, to learn, and to cre­ate community.


Over a delight­ful din­ner, the ADL del­e­ga­tion heard from young men and women who are intent on rebuild­ing Krakow’s Jew­ish com­mu­nity.  The food itself – home­made, fresh and kosher – sym­bol­ized the community’s ethos of renewal. But their words made an even deeper impres­sion on our group.  Though the com­mu­nity is very small, their sense of com­mit­ment bodes well for the future.


ADL’s Con­tin­u­ing Mission

Krakow is the home to the Jew­ish Cul­ture Fes­ti­val, attended by 20,000 peo­ple each year, and we saw min­i­mal secu­rity at Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in the city.  How­ever, we know Krakow is not an oasis devoid of anti-Semitism. ADL can sup­port the devel­op­ment of these small com­mu­ni­ties in Krakow, War­saw, and else­where in Poland by keep­ing up the pres­sure on elected offi­cials, law enforce­ment, and civil soci­ety lead­ers to speak out against anti-Semitism, to take legal action when appro­pri­ate, and in gen­eral to make clear to the Jew­ish com­mu­nity that they are equal mem­bers of Pol­ish soci­ety, enti­tled to the same pro­tec­tions and respect as all other Pol­ish citizens.

Through our reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tions with lead­ers of the Pol­ish Jew­ish com­mu­nity and with anti-racism watch­dogs like the NEVER AGAIN Asso­ci­a­tion, ADL can respond to con­cerns in sol­i­dar­ity and coop­er­a­tion.  On this lead­er­ship mis­sion, ADL’s lead­ers and local com­mu­nity lead­ers faced chal­leng­ing issues together and at the end raised glasses l’chaim, to life. It should always be so.

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July 13, 2016 Off

Pokemon GO, A Popular Game with Some Troubling Consequences

pokemonThe Poké­mon GO app is a hybrid vir­tual and real world game.  The game’s objec­tive is to use a smart­phone to find, see and capture/collect vir­tual Poké­mon char­ac­ters. Many play­ers find the game highly engag­ing, enter­tain­ing and even addic­tive. Poké­mon char­ac­ters are appar­ently ran­domly dis­trib­uted on the game’s map, but can also be col­lected at “Poke­stops,” loca­tions in the real world based on points of inter­est as iden­ti­fied on Google maps. Play­ers can also cre­ate “gym­na­si­ums” and “lures,” which are typ­i­cally at  pub­lic places like parks, post offices and muse­ums, but these gym­na­si­ums may poten­tially be cre­ated in places like memo­ri­als, churches, tem­ples, mosques, syn­a­gogues, and schools where play­ing the game is inap­pro­pri­ate or offen­sive.  Play­ers tend to con­gre­gate where Poké­mon char­ac­ters can be col­lected and they can inter­act with other play­ers.  Like Google’s points of inter­est, the loca­tion of Poke­stops is not always pre­cisely accu­rate.  So, for exam­ple, a Poke­stop based on a Google map point of inter­est may be located in front of a reli­gious insti­tu­tion, but the Poke­mon char­ac­ter may be view­able on a smart­phone used inside the build­ing. ADL has received reports that Poké­mon char­ac­ters have appeared on phones inside the US Holo­caust Memo­r­ial Museum, out­side syn­a­gogues, at Auschwitz and at other loca­tions where play­ing a game is dis­re­spect­ful if not offen­sive.  The game is software-driven, and it is rea­son­able to assume the char­ac­ters are not placed in such loca­tions with any mali­cious intent.  It is likely that the appear­ance of Poke­mon char­ac­ters at the Holo­caust Museum and at Auschwitz is an unin­tended con­se­quence of the tech­nol­ogy dri­ving the app.  Once they learned of it, the author­i­ties at Auschwitz were right to tell peo­ple they can­not play the game there. Even though we do not believe the app’s devel­op­ers delib­er­ately chose inap­pro­pri­ate set­tings for the game, we would urge them to explore the pos­si­bil­ity of tak­ing steps proac­tively to restrict areas which are likely to cause offense, and to pre­vent the char­ac­ters for appear­ing in or near them.  In the mean­time, peo­ple who encounter offen­sive Poke­stops can visit the app’s sup­port page, which pro­vides infor­ma­tion about report­ing a prob­lem with a gym or Poke­stop.  There is no clear way to request that a loca­tion be removed, but there is a choice that says “dan­ger­ous Pokestop/gym” on the “rea­sons” drop-down menu.  One should be able to suc­cinctly pro­vide as much detail as pos­si­ble there, but at this time, it is unclear how effec­tive this process will be. While remov­ing prob­lem­atic loca­tions would be wel­come, there are also some broader soci­etal con­cerns regard­ing Poke­mon GO.  For exam­ple, there are risks related to game play­ers who are dis­tracted while mov­ing around.  It may also be prob­lem­atic that by play­ing the game, the player reveals his or her phys­i­cal loca­tion at any given time to the devel­oper.  While the game itself does not pose any inher­ent threat, it does raise ques­tions of per­sonal safety and secu­rity for play­ers who do not show good judg­ment.  Par­ents in par­tic­u­lar should under­stand that play­ing the game could pose some safety risks for their children.

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February 5, 2015 Off

Lo que aprendimos de Auschwitz

Por Abra­ham H. Fox­man
Direc­tor Nacional de la Liga Antidifamación

Este artículo apare­ció orig­i­nal­mente en el blog de The Huff­in­g­ton Post

El sep­tu­agésimo aniver­sario de la lib­eración de Auschwitz, que se cel­e­brará el 27 de enero en el Día Inter­na­cional de Con­mem­o­ración en Memo­ria de las Víc­ti­mas del Holo­causto, llega en un momento en que algunos se pre­gun­tan: ¿está suce­di­endo nue­va­mente en Europa?

Cono­ce­mos la respuesta racional a esa pre­gunta. A pesar de la gravedad del resurgimiento del anti­semitismo en Europa, no hay com­para­ción con la Europa de los años treinta y cuarenta del siglo pasado. En aquel entonces, un par­tido com­pro­metido con la destruc­ción del pueblo judío obtuvo el poder total en Ale­ma­nia y final­mente llegó a con­tro­lar casi toda Europa, per­mi­tiendo el asesinato sis­temático de 6 mil­lones de judíos y mil­lones de otras per­sonas en el Holocausto.

Hoy en día, los gob­ier­nos de Europa no apoyan el anti­semitismo; lo com­baten, aunque no siem­pre con sufi­ciente fuerza.

¿Si no es el Holo­causto —y, si no es útil com­pren­der los inmen­sos desafíos de hoy com­parán­do­los con el Holo­causto—, Auschwitz nos da alguna lec­ción hoy en día?

Yo diría que varias.

Primero está el papel de las ide­ologías de odio en la pro­duc­ción de com­por­tamien­tos vio­len­tos y anti­semi­tas. Aunque hoy los anti­semi­tas en Europa no con­trolan los gob­ier­nos, son capaces de mov­i­lizar a per­sonas com­pro­meti­das con la vio­len­cia sobre la base de nociones fan­tás­ti­cas sobre el mal de los judíos.

Joseph Goebbels, Min­istro de Pro­pa­ganda de Hitler, con­ven­ció a los ale­manes no sólo de odiar a los judíos sino tam­bién de creer que tenían que pro­te­gerse del mal­vado y todopoderoso judío que estaba enve­ne­nando el cuerpo político alemán. Tam­bién hoy, los extrem­is­tas islámi­cos —ya sea Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas o Hezbolá— con­sid­eran al judío el ori­gen del mal en el mundo.

La Carta de Con­sti­tu­ción de Hamas no sola­mente hace un lla­mado a la destruc­ción de Israel; sostiene que los judíos son respon­s­ables de todos los males del mundo mod­erno desde la Rev­olu­ción Francesa.

Cuando Al-Qaeda decidió atacar el World Trade Cen­ter el 11 de sep­tiem­bre de 2001, fue sólo después de que con­sid­er­aran atacar obje­tivos judíos en Nueva York. Incluso el World Trade Cen­ter era visto como un obje­tivo par­cial­mente “judío”, ya que se con­sid­er­aba que los judíos con­trolan el com­er­cio mundial, según “Los pro­to­co­los de los sabios de Sión”.

Una vez se resuelve que los judíos son la fuente del mal, es casi una respon­s­abil­i­dad actuar con­tra ellos. Y así los ataques con­tra civiles judíos, que rep­re­sen­tan el mal en forma ordi­naria, se vuel­ven admisibles.

Debe­mos luchar con­tra esta ide­ología de odio. No debe­mos titubear al darle el nom­bre que merece y reunir a per­sonas de todas las reli­giones con­tra él.

Una segunda lec­ción es que la vergüenza por lo que el anti­semitismo pudo pro­ducir, que se man­i­festó con la apari­ción de las primeras fotografías de Auschwitz después de la lib­eración, es un impor­tante inhibidor del antisemitismo.

No cura al mundo de la enfer­medad del anti­semitismo —que está tan arraigada y sirve a muchos propósi­tos—, pero sí afecta el nivel y la inten­si­dad del com­por­tamiento antisemita.

El anti­semitismo no explotó como un fenó­meno durante décadas en parte debido a esta vergüenza. A medida que pasa el tiempo y la inmedi­atez del Holo­causto se desvanece, resulta más impor­tante que nunca desar­rol­lar nuevas y cre­ati­vas man­eras de trans­mi­tir a los jóvenes sus horrores.

Recuerdo que hace algunos años escuché a Rita Suss­muth, del Bun­destag alemán, hablando de la necesi­dad de crear nuevos y emo­tivos méto­dos para lle­gar a cada gen­eración de jóvenes que está más y más ale­jada de los acon­tec­imien­tos de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Nunca debe­mos aban­donar la lucha para explicar lo que puede provo­car el antisemitismo.

Para mí, una ter­cera lec­ción es la íntima conex­ión entre el anti­semitismo y la salud de una sociedad democrática. Ya sea la expre­sión de que los judíos son el canario en la mina de car­bón o las famosas líneas del Pas­tor Mar­tin Niemöller sobre las con­se­cuen­cias de no enfrentarse a la mal­dad, Auschwitz no es sólo sobre los males del anti­semitismo sino tam­bién sobre cómo no con­tro­larlo invari­able­mente pone en peli­gro a toda la sociedad.

La lucha con­tra el anti­semitismo nunca debería con­sid­er­arse sola­mente como una lucha moral. Es una lucha prác­tica, como lo expresó con tanta elocuen­cia el Primer Min­istro Manuel Valls ante el Par­la­mento francés después de los ataques ter­ror­is­tas con­tra Char­lie Hebdo y el super­me­r­cado kosher.

¿Cómo -pre­guntó- podría la sociedad francesa no protes­tar y estar indig­nada cuando los judíos eran insul­ta­dos, cuando los ván­da­los vio­la­ban las insti­tu­ciones judías, cuando los man­i­fes­tantes inten­taron invadir una sin­a­goga? Su men­saje fue claro: Toda Fran­cia nece­sita pon­erse de pie y con fuerza cuando los judíos son ata­ca­dos. No sola­mente porque es lo cor­recto, sino porque es de vital impor­tan­cia para el bien­es­tar de la sociedad francesa.

El ataque crim­i­nal con­tra Char­lie Hebdo sigue inevitable­mente al asesinato de tres niños judíos en Toulouse. Los ataques con­tra los judíos en la Ale­ma­nia Nazi invari­able­mente lle­varon a los esfuer­zos de Hitler para dom­i­nar y esclavizar al mundo.

Entonces, el martes, mien­tras con­mem­o­ramos los 70 años de la lib­eración de Auschwitz y el Día Inter­na­cional de Con­mem­o­ración de las Víc­ti­mas del Holo­causto, la impor­tan­cia de saber lo que sucedió allí y trans­mitírselo a la sigu­iente gen­eración es más urgente que nunca.
Hoy, las ame­nazas con­tra los judíos son may­ores de lo que han sido desde aque­l­los días oscuros. Y esas ame­nazas, como lo enseña la lec­ción de Auschwitz, nos ame­nazan a todos nosotros.

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