The Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada
Toronto and Montreal

Open Letter to Dr. M. Stern,

Deputy Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress

April 10, 2006

I am writing on behalf of the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada (Toronto and Montreal) in response to the remarks made by Maram Stern, deputy secretary of the World Jewish Congress.  The PJHF, of which I am a founder and past Chair, is dedicated to exploring the history and culture of Polish Jewry.  It examines Polish-Jewish relations in an open and honest fashion.

Mr. Stern stated, in response to a proposal from the Polish Government to UNESCO to rename "Concentration Camp Auschwitz" to "Former German Nazi Concentration Camp Auschwitz", as saying that "despite the fact that that the camp (Auschwitz) was built and administered by Germans, everybody in the vicinity knew of its existence and workers were recruited from among the local population.  The government in Warsaw wants to separate the history of Poland from the history of Auschwitz and to imply that Poland never played any role in this camp."

The PJHF condemns Mr. Stern's response.  His comments are factually incorrect and only serve to aid those elements who wish to discredit Poles and Jews wherever they live.  First, Poland was severed by the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.  Oswiecim was incorporated into the German Reich.  Therefore, there was no Poland that could have played a role in the Auschwitz Camp complex.  Second, there were no ethnic Poles who voluntarily worked at the camp in any capacity.  To be accurate, there was a small number of volksdeutsche (former Polish citizens, self proclaimed as Germans and recognized as such by the German authorities) who were employed by the various corporations, such as I. G. Farben, which profited from the slave labour in the camp complex.  This element was feared and hated by ethnic Poles.  Third, while former Polish citizens certainly knew of the camp, there was nothing that they could do.  They were under a vicious and brutal occupation, their leadership decimated (both literally and figuratively), and the area around the camp was tightly controlled.  Nevertheless, the Polish Underground was instrumental in notifying the Allies about the mass murder.

Mr. Stern's comment unveils an ignorance of the reality of Auschwitz in the light of Germany's occupation of Poland.  As a son of parents who lost all of their family in the Holocaust, including my father's parents in Auschwitz, as a professor of Holocaust History, and as one who strives to uphold historical accuracy, I, and the Polish Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada find Mr. Stern's attributions to be without merit.  We trust that the World Jewish Congress will rectify Mr. Stern's statement in a gesture of goodwill and in keeping with the historical truth.

       Franklin Bialystok, Ph.D.
and the Boards of the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada
(Toronto and Montreal)