Piotr Cywiński: reckless fiddling with the fates of three million victims can only arouse opposition

statement of the Auschwitz Museum Director

The article published in The New Yorker contains so many lies and distortions that I find it a bit hard to believe that it is a coincidence. Furthermore, when it concerns the Holocaust, any distortion of historical truth is very dangerous. This applies to all forms of denial, revisionism, and deformation of historical truth.

Piotr Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum (aut. Pawel Sawicki; CC BY-SA 3.0)

When I read the lead sentence of the article, which says ‘to exonerate the nation of the murders of three million Jews, the Polish government will go as far as to prosecute scholars for defamation,’ I am less inclined to notice that the lawsuit to which the author refers to is, in fact, a private lawsuit under civil law, to which everyone is entitled.

It is utterly shocking to assume that it is the nation (explicitly named in the same sentence that refers to the Polish government) responsible for the murder of 3 million Jews.

Piotr Cywiński: Memory must come hand in hand with responsibility

History was very complex, but to reduce the entire Poland to the story of collaborators, blackmailers, informers, or murderers is a historical lie. I do not know what the author’s knowledge of World War II and the Holocaust is, but just as I do not talk about quantum physics (as I do not know much about it), Masha Gessen should remain silent if that is all the author has to say. Otherwise, Masha Gessen denies the existence of the perpetrators who introduced the Nuremberg Laws in Germany, who invaded almost the entire Europe, who made arrangements during the Wannsee Conference, who confined Jews in ghettos, who starved and robbed them, who deported entire families to Kulmhof, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau and many other places of murder.

Concentration camp Mauthausen, visit of Heinrich Himmler. Francz Kutschera third from the right in the first row (Bundesarchiv, Bild 192-016 / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Yes, there were cases of denunciation, collaboration, or outright murders perpetrated by Poles. Nevertheless, such reckless fiddling with the fates of three million victims can only arouse opposition. In this case, it offends the vast majority of victims of the Holocaust and offends many Survivors, just two weeks before Yom ha-Shoah… It also offends the last living American veterans who, with great sacrifice, moved towards Berlin. Not towards Warsaw.

A real journalist, a professional analyst, should know that stating such lies as in the above quote destroys the truth.

Interestingly, in several moments in the article, the author nearly notices the role of Nazi Germany in the history of the Holocaust. However, most readers will notice and remember the lead sentence. This is what they are for. At least in honest journalism.

Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, historian, director of the Auschwitz Museum and Memorial, Head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, Head of the Programme Council of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.