During a recent conference in Germany, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has come under fire for controversial comments that he made while speaking at a conference in Germany where he accused the Jews of being one the perpetrators of the Holocaust.
The Polish government later attempted to clarify Morawiecki‘s remarks, saying Warsaw was in no way denying the Holocaust or hinting at the possibility that Jewish victims were responsible for atrocities committed that resulted in the death of 6 million Jews during World War II.
The Israeli response to Morawiecki’s comments was swift, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoning his Polish counterpart to express his disgust.
Poland has come under fire for the introduction of a law that makes it illegal to accuse the country of being complicit in the Holocaust or referring to Nazi concentration camps as “Polish death camps”.
Morawiecki was asked at Munich Security Conference on April 21 whether he expected a backlash for telling a story about his mother who survived the Holocaust and told him that some Poles had collaborated with the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s secret police.
“Of course it’s not going to be punishable, not going to be seen as criminal, to say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian, not only German perpetrators,” Morawiecki replied.
Compounding Poland’s public relations difficulties during the rollout of the law in February was the Polish government’s ill-advised timing. President Andrzej Duda ratified the law just before the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp, outside the city of Krakow – where over 1 million Jews and 90,000 Poles were sent to their death.
The day before Duda signed off on the new law, nationalist supporters outside the Presidential Palace urged him not to kowtow to Jews.
In an open letter to the government, Poland’s Union of Jewish Communities in Poland made clear that since the introduction of the new law that there has been a significant uptick of anti-Semitism in Poland.
“If the Polish government maintains that occasional references to ‘Polish Death Camps’ must be criminalised, the rising intolerance and anti-Semitic hatred in our country should be equally dealt with using the same severe measures,“ the organisation’s note said.
Approximately 10% of Poland’s 3.5 million Jews survived the Holocaust; about 13,000 survivors were deported in 1968 in a so-called “anti-Zionist” campaign by the then-Communist government.
An estimated 30,000-35,000 Polish Jews were saved non-Jewish Polish citizens, according to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.
Yad Vashem has honoured more Poles as Righteous Among the Nations than any other country.
Only 10,000 Jews are still living in Poland.