Here's a great and fair piece from Michael Moynihan on why a misplaced adjective by a speech-writer created a spasm of outrage in Poland. It's all about Poland's self-understand as a nation after the Soviet occupation. Read the whole thing. Money quote:
It should be noted without equivocation that Poland’s Holocaust record, while far from perfect, is better than most countries under Nazi occupation. Unlike most of Germany’s European colonies, Poland produced no native SS division. Those who served with the German army were primarily Volksdeutsch (Polish citizens of German extraction), and, unlike citizens of other countries under occupation, no Poles eagerly worked as death camp guards.
But wartime Poland was a strange case of deeply rooted, historical anti-Semitism coexisting with anti-Nazi resistance. In 1942, the celebrated Catholic writer and resistance figure Zofia Kossak-Szczucka appealed for outside assistance on behalf of the Jews languishing and dying within the Warsaw Ghetto. But, lest it be seen as a philo-Semitic gesture rather than an act of Catholic decency, she added: “Our feelings toward the Jews haven’t changed. We still consider them the political, economic and ideological enemies of Poland.” The idea that Polish Jews were an alien political body, disproportionately active in pro-Soviet politics and therefore an obvious target for partisans, persists among many contemporary Polish historians.
(Photo: Polish peasants rest after digging through the ashes of Treblinka to scavenge possessions of murdered Jews. From the Tablet: “According to information provided by policemen stationed in Bełżec,” states a report prepared by a commission visiting Bełżec on Oct. 10, 1945, “the area of the camp has been dug up by local people looking for gold and precious stones left by murdered Jews. All over the dug-up terrain one finds scattered human bones: skulls, vertebrae, ribs, femurs, jaws, women’s hair, often in braids, also fragments of rotting human flesh, such as hands or lower limbs of small children.”)