February 2, 2018
His Excellency Andrzej Duda
President of the Republic of Poland
I write to express the grave concern of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum regarding the amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance recently ratified by the Polish Parliament criminalizing perceived attacks on Polish history. While we recognize that terms such as “Polish death camps” are historically inaccurate, we believe that enshrining this statute into law could potentially reverse decades of widely respected, impressive efforts in Holocaust education, research, and memorialization in Poland. Poland has become a leader and important partner for many institutions and nations worldwide.
For almost three decades, the Museum has enjoyed close relationships and cooperation with various Polish government agencies, academic institutions, scholars and educators, and sites of memory. Working together we have significantly advanced worldwide understanding of the Holocaust and honored the memory of the victims of Nazi Germany, including Jewish and non-Jewish Poles.
The Polish nation was the victim of German aggression and suffered an exceptionally brutal occupation. Characterizations – due to either ignorance or malice – of Polish responsibility for the establishment of Nazi concentration and death camps are unquestionably historically inaccurate. During the country’s occupation, many heroic Poles saved Jews. Many others, in ways large and small, assisted the Nazi invaders in their drive to exterminate the Jews. This proposed law threatens the ability of educators and the public to more fully understand the causes and events of the Holocaust and its implications for today.
While I am sure it is not your intent, it also threatens the memory of Holocaust victims as well as the brave Poles who helped Jews. As Marcel Drimer, a survivor said, “We were the lucky ones, if you can call having to hide in 19 different places during the three years that the Germans occupied my hometown of Drohobycz lucky. Sometimes it was the local Poles that helped us find our next place to hide, and other times it was our Polish neighbors who directed the Germans to our secret locations. By the end of the war, more than 20 of my family members had perished. No law will change that truth.”
I ask you to reject this law and work to ensure that Poland continues to be a leader and uniquely vital partner in preserving Holocaust memory and promoting Holocaust scholarship and education.
Sara J. Bloomfield
Director, United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumView All Museum News Releases