Polish president says Poles 'as a nation' did not participate in Holocaust

“I will never agree, that we as a nation, Poland as a nation, be slandered by untrue historical ‘truths’ and by absolutely false accusations," President Duda said.

January 30, 2018 02:54
3 minute read.

The Nazi slogan "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free) is pictured at the gates of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017.. (photo credit: AGENCY GAZETA/KUBA OCIEPA/VIA REUTERS)

“There was no Polish participation, there was no participation of Poles as a nation in the Holocaust,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Monday as efforts to contain the crisis between Israel and Poland over controversial Polish legislation on the Holocaust did not show immediate results.

Duda, in a visit to Zory in southern Poland, said there was “no systematic support, from the Polish side, for the Holocaust, only the fight against it – we need to insist on compliance with this basic truth; it is our right as a nation, just as it is the right of the Jews is to combat antisemitism.

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“I will never agree, that we as a nation, Poland as a nation, be slandered by untrue historical ‘truths’ and by absolutely false accusations that in the last few days were addressed to our country and our nation, of which there have been many,” he said.

His comments seemed to put a chill on efforts, which started the night before in a conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish colleague Mateusz Morawiecki, to contain the crisis. The two agreed to set up teams to reach an understanding on the legislation that would criminalize appropriating culpability to the Poles for the Holocaust and using words such as “Polish death camps.” That legislation has suddenly cast clouds over the relationship between the two countries.

The Foreign Ministry announced that its director-general, Yuval Rotem, will lead Israel’s team to talks with the Poles, but no date for a first meeting has been set.

Soon after the establishment of the teams was announced, however, a Polish government spokeswoman, Joanna Kopcinska, tweeted that Netanyahu and Morawiecki talked about “the current Polish-Israeli relations and historical conditions.” She said it was agreed that there would be a “dialogue between the teams of both countries. However, the conversation will not concern sovereign decisions of the Polish parliament.”

Soon after that tweet, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said that according to Israel’s understanding, this does not reflect the position of the Polish prime minister or the government. Kopcinska, the spokesman said, is the deputy speaker of the Polish parliament.

Efforts at containing the crisis, however, could be seen in a back-and-forth dialogue between officials on Twitter.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted the following to his Polish followers: “The issue is NOT the death camps. Of course they were not Polish.

Those were German death camps. The issue is the legitimate and essential freedom to talk about the involvement of Poles in the murder of Jews without fear or threat of penalization. Simple.”

And Marek Magierowski, undersecretary of state in Poland’s foreign ministry, explained his country’s position in a series of tweets: “The new law is not aimed at curtailing historical research or denying the complicity of some Polish citizens in the Holocaust. It’s about combating historical distortions,” he wrote. “Polish nation was not responsible for the Holocaust.

It was the German invaders who brought that calamity upon the Jewish people. We will never forget the suffering of the European Jews, but it is our utmost obligation to also defend our good name” Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, the son of former justice minister Tommy Lapid, who was a Holocaust Survivor, has led the angry chorus locally against the law and continued to do so on Monday, slamming the government for agreeing to enter into talks with Poland about the matter.

You do not enter negotiations about the memory of those killed,” Lapid said. “This law simply has to be buried in the Polish ground soaked with Jewish blood. Most of the extermination camps were in Poland, and not by accident. Polish citizens helped the Nazi machine. They turned in Jews, they killed Jews.”

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