The Current Political Situation in Poland

The Current Political Situation in Poland
Published: February 2, 2018
Dear Friends, 

In the past week, I have received messages of concern and care from many of JCC Krakow’s supporters around the world. I greatly appreciate your involvement in our community and would like to offer a few thoughts on the current political situation in Poland.

As you likely already know, Poland’s parliament recently approved a bill calling for legal penalties for anyone who “publicly and against the facts” accuses the Polish people of crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II. As the executive director of JCC Krakow, as an Israeli, a Pole, and a Jew, I was deeply disappointed to see this bill move forward. 

I understand the Polish government’s desire to avoid wrongful accusation for crimes that Poles did not commit, particularly in light of significant Polish suffering during the war. Nazi Germany, not Poland, created and ran death camps on Polish land. Our community has itself directly benefited from the many Poles who saved Jews during the war. 

But there were Poles, as there were people throughout Europe, who exploited and killed Jews during the Holocaust. We cannot condone a law that would stifle honest reflection on the difficult elements of Poland’s past and possibly spur greater anti-Semitism in Poland. No law should prevent discussion of wrongs committed during the Holocaust, as I’m afraid this law would. To ensure the use of historically accurate terminology and popular understanding of the events of World War II, the way forward is education, not legal intervention.

Though I am frustrated by this week’s political developments, the JCC is able to do what we do only because of a positive environment in which Jews are excited to embrace their roots and a large number of non-Jews, many of them JCC Krakow volunteers, who are eager to support the Jewish revival. 

It is easy to become caught up in fear and anxiety, but there can be no doubt that Jewish life is thriving in Poland and that many inspiring organizations are working to keep it so. JCC Krakow and its 690 members are proof.

On the way up to my office this morning, I saw 15 smiling faces in FRAJDA,  the JCC’s Jewish preschool. Later, I popped in to our Senior Club to chat with a group of Holocaust survivors. And in just a few minutes, I will join dozens of our local community members for Shabbat dinner in our building. 

It is my hope that Polish President Andrzej Duda will veto the proposed legislation, allowing for open dialogue and education about the Holocaust. And in this 10th birthday year of JCC Krakow, it is my strong belief that Jewish life will continue to thrive in Poland. Here at the JCC, we’re eager to continue on our mission to rebuild Jewish life in Krakow with you, our friends and supporters, alongside us.

Jonathan Ornstein

JCC Krakow Executive Director