Poland in Photographs by Jewish Artists
Chapter 6. The Same as the Nazis
Most Poles are not oppressors, actual or prospective. Asked “How can Jews live in a country where their ancestors were murdered” Konstanty Gebert writes about the people, Poles and Jews, “who went to prison for having printed my words” and about the Jews who “on a par with the Poles created this country.”109 The history of Polish attitudes towards Jews can be shameful, but it is not more so than for example the history of France and its Vichy government, or that of Germany with its Judensau theology and its implementation of the “final solution to the Jewish question”. Yet when Lévy and Dayan’s comment on Brenner’s photographs from Poland, they reveal a transference of guilt from the Nazis – German and Austrian originators, constructors, enforcers, and mechanics of the Shoah – onto Poles. The shift manifests itself in the kind of “confusing” of Polish and German history which ascribes to Poles – including contemporary Poles – a responsibility for the roles which had historically been played by Nazi Germans.
Diaspora’s representation of Poland includes texts by four authors, two of them renowned academics; all these interpretations speak of the Shoah, three mention the Poles as murderers, but none mentions the German Nazis! Making contemporary Poles collectively accountable for Nazi crimes is achieved by omission and misconstruction. One assumption is that Poles are inherently different, the other is that Poles kill Jews. Brenner’s images as commented on by Lévy and Dayan show a perspective where the internal,...
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