Columnists in the Jewish press will rarely have an easier target than a noxious piece of Polish legislation that plays politics with Holocaust history.
The lower house of Poland’s parliament chose Friday, Jan. 26, the day before International Holocaust Memorial Day and the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, to approve a bill that would make it a crime to suggest that Poland played any part in the Nazi atrocities on Polish soil during World War II.
The thing is, there’s not much to say about a proposed law so wrong that Jews — in Israel, in the Diaspora, on the left, on the right — are unified in outrage.
The law is offensive to Holocaust survivors and to the memory of the slain 6 million. It’s a rejection of reality to pretend that no Poles were complicit in the Nazi crimes. And it’s crazy to think that banning certain speech will eliminate the related thoughts.
Let’s hope the upper house of the Polish parliament, if not the president, will do the right thing and reject the legislation. Meanwhile, I prefer to dwell on a celebration of history the same weekend.
One of my uncles, Jeff Guller (read his latest fitness column here), made a 4½-hour drive from Lenoir, N.C., then drove back the next day so he could introduce a documentary at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.
Uncle Jeff is a powerlifter, a record-setter for his age group, but even he was impressed by the feats of strength of Joe Greenstein, the subject of the film “The Mighty Atom.” Not only could he bend horseshoes, chew through chains and beat up Nazi sympathizers by the roomful, but he also entertained fellow hospital patients by visiting their rooms and biting through nails minutes before his death at age 83.
His life story is an answer to those calling for an immigration system based entirely on perceived merit. You don’t know what people will contribute until they’re here.
I recommend seeing “The Mighty Atom” during its second screening Feb. 10, when director Steve Greenstein, the Mighty Atom’s grandson, is scheduled to appear, but the film is not what made a rainy weekend happy.
It was the game of instant Jewish geography that broke out in the Perimeter Pointe theater.
Uncle Jeff got to meet a friend of his sister’s (that is, my mom’s) when Rabbi Joshua Heller arrived to say a few words on behalf of the film’s sponsor, the Congregation B’nai Torah Preschool.
One of the men in the crowd, a Johns Creek resident who, like my uncle, was born in Brooklyn, turned out to be an old friend to one of Joe Greenstein’s sons, Mike, who is shown pulling a car by his teeth at age 93 on “America’s Got Talent.” “We called him Moishe,” the man said on his way out.
But the best surprise was sitting in our row.
After Uncle Jeff made his introduction, noting that he practiced law in North Carolina, a woman two seats away asked where in North Carolina. He said he lived near Charlotte, and she said her husband, sitting next to her, was from Gastonia, where my uncle lived for 52 years.
The husband’s father gave Uncle Jeff his first job in the law, though the now-middle-aged man is too young to remember when my uncle knew him as a preschooler toddling around the courthouse.
But they got to reminisce about someone who meant a lot to both of them, simply because a film about a Jewish strongman born in 19th century Poland drew them to Sandy Springs. That’s too magical a moment to be ruined by nonsense in 21st century Poland.