I know that this is a sensitive subject, and one that is very regulated in Poland, but I am asking this simply out of genuine curiosity, were there any instances where poles, either in a governmental role or just a normal person, collaborated with the SS in the Holocaust?
Watching from Germany, Poland is working for some time towards accepting history, not selecting stories which sounds good. Poland was a hell under German occupation, and Polish governmantial collaboration was not possible.
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Certainly. There were Poles who would turn Jews in for the bounty that was occasionally offered, for instance. There were also Poles who would hide Jews, or forge papers for them (the “Provisional Committee for Aid to Jews”, for instance.). The largest group of people designated by Had Vashem’s “Righteous among the Nations” are Polish.
There was also a strong (but by no means complete) anti-semitic streak among Poles even before the war. Before the war, the Polish “Endek” party attacked jews, and organized boycotts against Jewish businesses. Later, when the “OZON” party took power (1938), laws were passed that limited Jewish rights, and explicitly called for the emigration of all Polish Jews to… anywhere else.
During the war, there were Poles who were in the pay of the Gestapo to find and kill Jews. Poles were cowed by threats from the Germans to give up Jews in their midst. Poles were also murdered by the Germans for merely being Polish, and before the German-Russian war by the Russians for the same “crime”. It is, as they say, complicated.
An example of Poles murdering Jews is that of Jedwabne on July 10, 1941, where at least 340 Polish Jews were murdered by about 40 Poles, acting with the collusion of the Germans. (That is, the Poles checked with the Germans if it was OK to do this.). It wasn’t until 2000 that the Polish government even bothered to investigate, and in 2001, issued the first acknowledgement and apology.
And as you say, all this is “sensitive.” The Poles even these days don’t like to think (or teach their young) that they were anything but victims. The Act on the Institute of National Rememberance (amended to be even more ‘rigorous’ in 2018 - original act in 1998) made it a crime (including prison for up to 3 years) to even mention that any act of helping the Germans occurred at all. (This was partially overturned by the Constitutional Tribunal in 2019.)
Everybody under the German occupation who ‘got along’ with them doesn’t like to admit it.
Hope this helps!