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18 Feb, 2018 08:14

‘Jewish perpetrators’ of Holocaust remark by Polish PM sparks outrage in Israel

‘Jewish perpetrators’ of Holocaust remark by Polish PM sparks outrage in Israel

Heated debate over Poland’s controversial Holocaust law has reached new levels this week after the Polish prime minister spoke of “Jewish perpetrators” during the Nazi era, causing outrage in Israel.

“The Polish Prime Minister’s remarks here in Munich are outrageous,” Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Saturday, referring to the remarks Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made at the 2018 Munich Security Conference. Netanyahu said that there was “an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people,” adding that he intends to speak to Morawiecki immediately.

The story unfolded on Saturday, when Morawiecki was asked by an Israeli journalist about the new Polish law that criminalizes blaming Poles for complicity in crimes of the Holocaust during WWII. The reporter, Ronen Bergman, told of his mother whose family narrowly escaped arrest by the Nazis after learning their Polish neighbors planned to turn them in.

“After the war, my mother swore that she will never speak Polish for the rest of her life, not even a single word,” the reporter said. “If I understand correctly, after this law is legislated, I am considered criminal in your country for saying this. What is the purpose, what is the message that you want to convey to the world?” he asked, garnering a round of applause.

Morawiecki responded: “It’s not going to 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 and German perpetrators.”

The Polish prime minister then defended the legislation that outlaws using the phrase ‘Polish death camp’ or otherwise implying that Poles were complicit in Nazi crimes during WWII. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, there were no Polish death camps, or Polnische Vernichtungslager, there were German Nazi death camps.”

Poland “was the only place on Earth” where thousands of Polish families were exterminated by the Nazis and the entire villages were annihilated “for helping our Jewish brothers and sisters,” Morawiecki said.

His remarks have predictably been blasted in Israel, with many journalists and politicians accusing him of antisemitism and siding with Holocaust deniers.

Later on Saturday, the prime minister’s office said Morawiecki’s comments “were by no means intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide.”

His words “should be interpreted as a call to sincere talk about crimes committed against Jews,” it said, adding that before World War II, “Polish Jews lived, created and worked on Polish soil for 800 years.”