Getting the facts right on "Polish SS"

In September 2015, the book “Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada” was published by Between the Lines publishing house. In this book, authors Ratna Omidvar and Dana Wagner present a collection of interviews that span two centuries of refugee experiences in Canada.

One chapter in particular describes the story of Max Farber, a Polish World War II survivor who immigrated to Canada. This otherwise moving story contains, however, a glaring historical distortion regarding Poland during the Second World War. The authors misnamed members of the German Nazi paramilitary organization Schutzstaffel as “Polish SS”, which is simply not true. The term “Polish SS” implies that Poland was somehow actively involved with the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. This is absolutely false. The Polish people fought and resisted the Nazi aggressors for the entire length of the war. Even after being militarily defeated by German forces in 1939, Poles refused to bow to Hitler and continued to resist the occupiers. Tragically, Poland paid a dear price with the loss of up to 6 million of its citizens, including at least 3 million Polish-Jews.

To correct this mistake, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Canada, His Excellency Marcin Bosacki, wrote a letter on February 4, 2016, to the managing director of Between the Lines demanding the withdrawal of the current edition of the book and a public apology.

On February 10, 2016, the publisher issued a public apology on its website and had an erratum inserted into all of the unsold copies. The corrected wording will be used in all future versions and the upcoming ebook. Click here to view the apology.

As a Canadian with Polish heritage, I believe that getting the facts right on such a painful period in Poland’s history is extremely important. The Nazis brought unspeakable horrors upon European Jews and other groups of people deemed “sub-human”, including Poles. The least we can do to honour the memories of the millions of innocent lives that were lost or broken is to remember their story accurately.