British Actor Upsets Poles
Stephen Fry angers Poland with Auschwitz reference
Today there’s a new reminder for those in the public eye to watch their references to the Holocaust, this time from British actor Stephen Fry. Fry appeared on British Channel 4 news to argue with a European Parliament member from the Conservative party about its alliance with members of Poland’s far-right Law and Justice Party. Fry’s got justice on his side; his main complaint was about the Polish party’s “mean-spirited, joyless, loveless homophobia.” And he wasn’t wrong in criticizing Poland’s tradition of anti-Semitism. But we winced a little when he called that history “disturbing for those of us who know a little history, and remember which side of the border Auschwitz was on.” It seems a bit harsh to blame the entire Polish nation for terrible things German Nazis did there (He may have been a bit overzealous in this reference to the entire nation, perhaps because he himself discovered relatives who perished in Auschwitz, as well as more details of his own Jewish background, via a genealogy program a few years back.)
And now, naturally, Poland is pissed. A spokesman for its embassy in London said that for Fry “to imply, however vaguely, some form of collective responsibility of the Polish nation and Poland for the notorious death camp which came to symbolise the horrors of the Holocaust, is utterly misleading, and quite frankly, slanderous.” And a historian has pointed out the error of Fry’s “border” reference—after all, under Nazi occupation, “there wasn’t really a Poland to speak of.”
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