Categorized under: Just Like the Holocaust

Stephen Fry earns Tory ire for invoking Auschwitz

Not funny, Mr. Fry

Not funny, Mr. Fry

Stephen Fry, the enormously popular British actor/writer/blogger/personality, has earned the ire of conservative Telegraph columnist Gerald Warner for seeming to assign much blame for Auschwitz on Polish Catholics.

Fry, who joined Labour luvvies in signing an open letter protesting against the Tories’ alliance in the European Parliament with the Polish Law and Justice Party, said on Channel 4 News: “There’s been a history, let’s face it, in Poland of a right-wing Catholicism which has been deeply disturbing for those of us who know a little history and remember which side of the border Auschwitz was on”…

That is beyond outrageous. It slanderously suggests that Auschwitz was run by Polish Catholics, not by German Nazis. “A little history” is right. Just how very little history Fry knows is demonstrated by that crassly ignorant statement. Auschwitz was on Polish soil, ergo it was a Polish institution? As for which side of the border Auschwitz was on, it was actually in Upper Silesia which had been annexed to Germany in 1939. It might, of course, be argued that the Poles built Auschwitz – if slave labour counts. Source: The Telegraph

What follows is a beat down of Fry that is stunning to read. Warner fairly meticulously schools Fry in the actual history of Auschwitz and leaves absolutely nothing standing in his wake. He sows salt into the soil for good measure.

And Warner is right in his arguments. Fry, an enormously intelligent and gifted entertainer (his blog is one of my three or four daily reads), made a really stupid statement. I do not know the complete context of why he said what he said, but taken on it’s face, he appears to be blaming Poles for Auschwitz because it happened to be located in their occupied territory. To make an enormously bad and inappropriate analogy (which is what this blog is all about!), it’s like blaming Japan for the Hiroshima bomb because it happened in Japan.

Such is the enormity of the Holocaust that it has the odd effect of blinding otherwise intelligent people from the centrality of the fact that it was a genocide of Nazi Germany against Jews and Gypsies. It was also the mass murder of homosexuals and communists, and yes, ethnic Poles. There were thousands of other who died in camps during the Holocaust, but to elevate their deaths to an equivalency to what happened to the Jewish and Romani people as a whole (whose entire race was targeted for extermination) is insulting and dangerous. Similarly it is insulting and dangerous to confuse the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Many people from other countries actively and willfully assisted the Nazis in their genocide. Perhaps the most noted and famous examples are the pograms of Jews in Latvia and Lithuania by Latvians and Lithuanians themselves. Poles themselves had a complicated relationship with the Jews of their own country, and as one would assume with the takeover by an occupier on the order of Nazi Germany, antisemitic elements and actions amongst poles would come out. Poles would be part of the story of the destruction of Jews in Auschwitz and across their county.

But Mr. Fry seems to be implying a partnership between Roman Catholics in Poland and Nazi Germany in the destruction of Jews in Poland. This is simply an inappropriate statement on behalf of a modern political point. It does not seems to account for the central fact that Poland was occupied by Germany and the Final Solution was a German program. Millions of Poles watched the Jews of their country rounded up into ghettos and later on into death camps. And thousands of Poles risked their lives to protect and save Jews during the war as well. The Roman Catholic church notably did very little to condemn and prevent the Holocaust when it was clear that they could have been a major force against the genocide. But the blame for Auschwitz as a singular representational abomination of the Holocaust must be put squarely on the shoulders of the planners and perpetrators: Nazi Germany.

This is not one of those “everyone is a little bit to blame, so let’s spread it around” situations. An attitude like that referencing an event like the Holocaust shows that Fry and others like him have learned nothing from the Holocaust. Or, worse yet, they clearly understand the lessons of the Holocaust, and would rather distort those lessons to make a quick political point.


  1. flakenszajs
    October 8th, 2009
RSSSubscribe to my feed now