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Poles Killed Poles Saved

To the Editor:

As a survivor of the Holocaust from Poland, I felt that "Poles and the Jews: How Deep the Guilt?," by Adam Michnik (Arts & Ideas pages, March 17), reflected one of the major struggles of my life.

When I was 16, in 1941, the Poles killed my father. That same year, as the Nazi occupation escalated, the remaining members of my family my mother, my two younger siblings and I were given refuge by Polish neighbors who kept us hidden for 18 months at the risk of their own lives. Given this, how can one possibly generalize about the Polish people?

While the rescuers were few in number, compared with the murderers, their heroism has been given substantial recognition, contrary to Mr. Michnik's assertion. In addition, thousands of ceremonies honoring Christian rescuers in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem have been widely publicized in the world media.

Chairman, American Society for Yad Vashem
New York, March 18, 2001

To the Editor:

As Adam Michnik notes in "Poles and the Jews: How Deep the Guilt?" (Arts & Ideas pages, March 17), the Polish government and people have generally responded with serious debate to the shocking revelation that during the Holocaust Polish townspeople in Jedwabne burned their Jewish neighbors alive in 1941. Poland's willingness to confront the past and replace a spurious monument is commendable.

The disclosure came as a shock because under Nazi occupation most Poles were victims, not collaborators or persecutors. What will the response be in this country, where people are generally ignorant of Polish suffering under the Nazis?

I know from my experience in Polish-Jewish relations that too often Polish guilt in the Holocaust is thoughtlessly presumed. Will Americans be as open-minded as Poles, or will they take Jedwabne as typical of all Poland, and retain their anti-Polish prejudices undisturbed?

Fairfield, Conn., March 18, 2001

The writer is a board member of the National Polish American, Jewish American Council.

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

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