By Anne Karpf (THE GUARDIAN, 23/06/07):
It was one of those «you couldn’t make it up» days. Poland was demanding more votes in the running of the EU on the grounds that, if Germany hadn’t murdered 6 million Poles, then the population would be almost double what it is today. One thing is clear: Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s ultra nationalist president and prime minister respectively, have blasted «Don’t mention the war» to smithereens.Of course, it’s quite understandable if Poland is still mourning its war dead, yet you can’t help thinking: the nerve of those boys. Isn’t there – how shall I put this Euro-politely? – a dash of audacity here? Hypocrisy even? Let’s remember those 6 million dead: half of them were Jews – and the Polish record on Jews is just a mite troublesome. Those Polish Jews weren’t exactly living in clover before the war, when the numerus clausus (Jewish quota) restricted their access to the professions. And when they were carted off to the camps, most of their Polish neighbours were at best indifferent, and at worst grateful.
Polish nationalism had long been nourished by anti-semitism. Although there were many Poles who exposed themselves to huge risk by hiding Jews, my own mother’s experience – denounced to the Nazis by a Polish Catholic – was common, perhaps even typical.
And now the Kaczynskis are trying to airbrush away every last speck of Polish complicity in the name of more EU votes! Those same Kaczynskis who are so fervently supported by Radio Maryja, widely criticised as chief purveyor of virulent anti-semitism in Poland today. Those same Kaczynskis who are governing Poland with a coalition including the radical right League of Polish Families, as homophobic as it is anti-semitic.
One can’t help but be reminded of the joke about the chap who killed both his parents and then demanded leniency from the judge because he was an orphan. In among all the web discussion about this story today, one wag proposed a compromise: give Poland the extra votes and move its boundary back to its 1938 location.