Polish Reasons and Jewish Reasons
It is an oversimplification to state that a fate, similar to that of the Jews, awaited the Poles, too. Although Jews had settled in Poland for centuries, antisemitism was widespread in Poland at the time of the outbreak of World War II, due to the rise of right-wing parties. Prekerowa’s estimate of the percentage of Poles who came to the help of Jews is probably too low. However, no more than twice the number of Jews could have been saved; the overwhelming majority were doomed. The Germans are responsible for the extermination of the Jews. Some of the responsibility falls on the Western Allies and on Jewish circles in the West. Penal responsibility rests with the perpetrators of the crimes. Moral responsibility must be borne by the whole German nation. The extermination camps were not set up in Poland because of Polish antisemitism, but rather because of the large numbers of Jews in Poland and its geographical position. However, the indirect connection between Polish antisemitism and the Holocaust is Christianity including the Catholic Church, which for ages persecuted, harassed, and victimized the Jews for religious reasons. The Church’s attitude changed radically after the war. Polish antisemitism did not change, as it manifested itself by the murder of Holocaust survivors attempting to reclaim possession of their homes or property. Antisemitism cannot be reconciled with basic Christian beliefs. A dialogue between Jews and Poles is necessary to eliminate prejudices and produce better mutual understanding.