Szymon Datner’s lost legacy – How Israeli journalists and historians misquote “Forest of the Righteous”

Szymon Datner’s lost legacy – How Israeli journalists and historians misquote “Forest of the Righteous”

Szymon Datner was a prominent Polish historian of Jewish descent, best known for his research on German war crimes committed against Jews, particularly those escaping from the ghettos in occupied Poland. In 1969–70 he presided over the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and was one of the historians at the Polish Commission to Investigate German Crimes, now part of the Institute of National Remembrance.

In his “Forest of the Righteous” (Warsaw, 1968) and later publications in the bulletins of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw he stated among others:

I estimated the number of surviving Jews – chiefly thanks to assistance provided by Polish residents – at approximately 100,000. According to further estimates, another 100,000 people were seized by Nazi authorities and murdered („Biuletyn ŻIH” 1970, nr 75, s. 22).

However, Datner’s findings don’t fit the present Israeli historical narrative and the numbers are being manipulated by journalists and historians to lash out at Poland as an alleged accomplice of Germans during the Second World War.

On February 14, 2019, Ariel Sobel, a malicious anti-Polish journalist of the oldest Israeli daily Haaretz manipulated Datner’s data in the following way (PMI reported):

However, Polish-Jewish historian Szymon Datner estimated Polish people directly caused the murder of 200,000 Jews during the Holocaust by handing them over to Nazis, informing authorities where they were hiding, and straight up murdering them. Datner, who himself survived the Holocaust, published the study in 1970. In 2019, doing so could be an offense.

Efraim Zuroff, known as a so-called “Nazi hunter” (hunting imagined “Polish Nazis” now) stated in an interview with the Russian news agency Sputnik (February 15,2019):

Because it basically sticks to the Polish narrative and there were far fewer efforts to rescue Jews compared to the act of complicity of Poles in the murder of Jews which resulted in the murder of at least 200,000 Jews.

Lahav Harkov, a proud Zionist and reporter of the Jerusalem Post, best known in Poland for her stupid tweet 12x “Polish death camps” in January 2018, stated on February 18, 2019, on Twitter:

Asked by Jakub Kumoch, the Polish Ambassador to Switzerland, to correct the false numbers, she responded in a bad style:

The appeals of the Polish Ambassador Jakub Kumoch and of PMI to correct the inaccurate numbers were falling on deaf ears of Yaakov Katz, the xenophobic editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post.

Sadly, the falsifications by Israelis of the important historical source destroy not only the scientific merit of Szymon Datner’s work but they also spoil the strained Polish-Israeli relationship. In this way, in the name of a poorly understood national pride, identity and Zionist ideology, journalists like Harkov or historians like Zuroff compromise their own country’s interests and provoke a backfire from the Visegrád Group, the European Union or some US Democrats.

The daughter of Szymon Datner, Helena Datner-Śpiewak, is a historian and sociologist. Her husband, Paweł Śpiewak, is Director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Their son is Jan Śpiewak, a political activist who exposed Warsaw’s real estate restitution scandals. One could ask: Couldn’t the members of Datner’s family get together and find a way to rescue the lost legacy of the great Polish historian Szymon Datner?

Editorial note: the Polish version of Datner’s work “Nazi crimes on Jews escaping from the ghettoes” can be accessed here.