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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Academics were told to call Poles ‘bystanders’ of Holocaust: historian

08.10.2019 15:00
British historian Norman Davies has said in an interview that a renowned Israeli academic advised young lecturers to describe Poles as “bystanders” of the Holocaust.
Norman Davies in 2013.
Norman Davies in 2013.By A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

In an interview published by the dziennik.pl website on Monday, Davies recalled a 1974 meeting in the Israeli embassy in London, which he described in his recently published autobiography.

During the meeting, he said, prominent Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer instructed young British academics how to teach their students about the Holocaust.

“The approach presented by Prof. Bauer was clear: that during the war in Poland […] there were perpetrators, victims and […] bystanders,” said Davies.

“The perpetrators were Nazis […] the victims were Jews, exclusively, and the passive ones were Poles,” Davies added, describing Bauer’s approach.

Davies said that when he protested, saying his Polish father-in-law had survived the Dachau and Mauthausen Nazi German death camps and that millions of Poles died during World War II, he was shouted down and called a “Polonophile.”

“The message of this whole meeting was that Poland was a historical centre of antisemitism,” Davies was quoted by the dziennik.pl website as saying.

“Unfortunately this approach was adopted in the West, not just in universities, but as common knowledge and it dominates in narratives on World War II,” he added.

Davies holds dual British and Polish citizenship. He has a Polish wife.

His best-known books are God’s Playground: A History of Poland; White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920 and Europe at War 1939-1945: No Simple Victory.

In 2012, Davies received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest state distinction.

(jh/pk)

Source: Dziennik.pl