Below is a letter my organization has sent to the Editor of the NYT in response to Mr. Craig Smith’s offensive Jan. 27 article.
To the Editor:
I am writing on behalf of myself and the organization I represent to express our utmost outrage as members of the Polish nation, at the depiction of Polish-Jewish relations by Mr. Craig Smith in his article, “World Leaders Gather for Auschwitz Ceremony,” published in your January 27th, 2005 edition.
We feel deeply offended by the harmful and untrue ideas expressed in the following statement: “for Russia it is a commemoration of its often-overlooked role as liberator, while for Poland and other Central European countries it is both part of a gradual recognition of their complicity in the killing and an opportunity to draw closer to Europe.”
Please, be informed that Poland is not recognizing its complicity in the killing, as there was no such complicity on the part of our Nation. The author’s statement to the contrary belies either his objectivity and/or basic knowledge of the facts of world’s history.
We also fear that such depiction of Polish – Jewish relations as the author seems to imply, can only prove harmful to the so far positive image of Jews in the Polish nation, which is an issue of great concern especially to those within our organization who are proud to be of Jewish origin.
To refresh the author’s memory, it was the Germans who invaded Poland in 1939 and shortly after built concentration camps to slaughter people of many nations, mainly Jews and Poles. Polish authorities never collaborated with the Nazi occupants.
On the contrary, Poles constitute the majority of those awarded the honorary title “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Yad Vashem Institute, a title awarded for heroic conduct in saving the lives of Jews during the times of the Nazi genocide. To deny the heroic role of Poles as the nation who saved most Jews, often at the expense of their own lives, is at best evidence of ignorance of basic historical facts.
As to the “Russia’s often-overlooked role as liberator”, we advise you to reflect over the reasons for this state of affairs. Wartime acts of genocide were committed by both Germans and Russians, who invaded Poland in September 1939 and shortly after started slaughtering thousands of Polish troops in Katyn. In the meantime, they built their own concentration camps at Kolyma and in Siberia, some of which lasted for much longer than the German ones and were witness to just as much pain and suffering.
Moreover, the victims of Communism vastly outnumber the victims of Nazism, which is not to excuse the latter in any way, but rather to point out that it is only natural that Soviets were considered more of a new occupying force, than liberators of the Nazi concentration camps in Poland. After all, following the Soviet “liberation” of Poland, we have been subject to nearly half a century of brutal Communist rule – dark times in the history of Poland not easily forgotten.
For all the reasons mentioned and also for the sake of the credibility and good name of your world-wide respected newspaper, we urge you to issue an apology and a correction of those false, harmful and ultimately offensive words of Mr. Smith, written, hopefully, out of lack of knowledge rather than on purpose.
Joanna Ewa Najfeld
Spokesman, The KoLiber Association, Poland
on behalf of:
Chairman, The KoLiber Association, Poland
A copy of this letter is available at our websites: