The Fallacy of Collective Guilt | Letters | Chicago Reader

The Fallacy of Collective Guilt 

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To the editors:

It is an interesting coincidence that the Reader should publish a letter from Jacob Sampson [March 8] under the headline "Poland Guilty" on the very weekend that the Holocaust Memorial Foundation and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith should be honoring Stefania Burzminska, who as a Catholic Pole hid 13 Jews for two years in Nazi-occupied Poland, thereby risking her own life and those of her family to save these people. That is the problem with assertions of collective guilt, they damn the heroic along with the innocent and the guilty. Mr. Sampson quotes the King James Bible at length to demonstrate the basis for violence in Christian texts. I will refrain from quoting similarly violent phrases from Jewish texts and content myself with recalling one for Mr. Sampson to consider: "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." (Ezekiel 18:20). Poland is not a person and therefore cannot be guilty. Let us have done with the notion of collective responsibility and look upon each other as human beings.


N. Sandburg

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