I AM writing in response to the objections raised by Polish and Hungarian officials to FBI Director James Comey’s assertion that some Poles and Hungarians were accomplices in the Holocaust (“Hungary joins criticism of FBI chief’s Holocaust remarks,” April 22).
It is a historical reality that the Nazi government of Germany planned and implemented the Holocaust. Many Poles and Hungarians risked their lives to keep Jews from death. Comey, however, was not wrong to allude to actions by other Hungarians and Poles that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jews.
The neo-Nazi Arrow Cross Party came to power in Hungary in October 1944. Ferenc Szalasi, leader of the party, believed Jews sought “control over the world.” He helped the Germans complete the forced transport of Jews to the death camps. A half million Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust. Arrow Cross militia also executed Jews. In 2005, 60 pairs of metal shoes were embedded on the Danube embankment in Budapest, the capital, to honor people who were murdered by the militia in the winter of 1944-45.
In 1941, after German troops had overrun the town of Jedwadee in Poland, Christian Poles attacked the 1,600 Jewish residents. Many were herded into a barn and died when it was set ablaze.
In 2001, Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski gave a speech on the anniversary of the massacre in which he said: “I beg pardon in my own name and in the name of those Poles whose conscience is shattered by that crime — in the name of those who believe that one cannot be proud of the glory of Polish history without feeling, at the same time, pain and shame for the evil done by Poles to others.”
Leaders of many nations, including the United States, could make similar apologies for shameful historical events. Acknowledging past offenses gives a nation integrity — something outrage and offended national pride can never do.
I wish Comey had quoted Kwasniewski.