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Mehta & the Poles

December 20, 1987

As a Polish American (non-Jewish) who lost many relatives during World War II in Poland (some relatives were sent to the Nazi concentration camps to serve as slave labor; others were shot to death in their villages by the Nazi occupiers), I resent very much Zubin Mehta's remarks regarding Polish collaboration with the Nazi Germans ("Zubin Mehta--Making Time for Making Music," by John Henken, Nov. 29).

I realize, as conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, he is propagating the views of many (not all) Jews toward the Polish Gentiles. Yet the information upon which he (and they) base their views is not historically accurate.

If Mehta were to study a little more history regarding that period, he would learn that Hitler planned genocide not only against Jews but against the Gentiles in Poland because of the alleged superiority of the "Aryan" Germans to the Slavic Poles.

I have been to Poland and have questioned survivors of the Nazi occupation regarding the alleged collaboration. It is my understanding that according to the German military laws in effect in Nazi-occupied Poland, any Pole who helped any Jews by the most insignificant act of kindness, such as offering a drink of water to the thirsty or a piece of bread to the hungry, was to be executed on the spot. Yet despite those laws, many Poles risked their lives to extend such acts of kindness.

Although all people who were under the Nazi occupation suffered, very few suffered to the extent that the Polish did. If the Polish people had collaborated widely with their Nazi occupiers, as Mehta implied, why were 3 million Polish Gentiles murdered by the Germans?

If he wants to talk about collaboration, why not discuss countries where the collaboration was much more apparent, such as in France where very few Frenchmen, in comparison, were murdered by the Nazis?

I think Mehta owes Polish Americans and Polish people everywhere a public apology.



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