Newsweek

Did Poland Collaborate With the Nazis?

Millions of Polish Jews died during the Holocaust. Who is to blame?
The infamous sign at the main gate of the Auschwitz extermination camp reads "Work Makes You Free," in Oswiecim, Poland, on November 15, 2014.
FE_Poland_04_461706214 Source: Christopher Furlong/Getty

Three decades ago, Konstanty Gebert broke the law. Constantly. He took part in anti-government protests. He wrote for underground newspapers. And he helped organize a secret university that taught subjects forbidden by the state.

But since the fall of Poland’s Communist government in 1989, Gebert says, he’s tried to respect the rule of law that Poles fought so hard for. That is, until earlier this year, when Poland’s ruling far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) made it illegal to blame the country for Nazi atrocities during World War II. Gebert felt he had to speak out. So in March, days after the law went into effect, the 64-year-old Jewish journalist made such a claim in an article for his Warsaw-based newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. “Many members of the Polish nation,” he wrote, “bear co-responsibility for some Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”

For now, Gebert remains a free man, but as a result of his article, he faces a three-year prison term or a sizable fine. “I’m still waiting,” he tells Newsweek. “The prosecutor’s office has published a press release saying that there have been 44 complaints based on the new law and they are examining them. I hope I am on the list.”

Warsaw has argued that the law protects the country’s history by outlawing claims that Poles were involved in Nazi death camps such

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