U.S. (R to L), Poland's flags and jack of the President of Poland are seen during the inauguration ceremony of bilateral military training between U.S. and Polish troops in Zagan, Poland, January 30, 2017..
(photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL/REUTERS)
NEW YORK – A private US-based Polish organization said that it has canceled an upcoming award ceremony after allegations of antisemitism surfaced against one of the prize winners.
Polish diplomatic officials said that they stepped in to intervene after learning that author Ewa Kurek would be one of three people honored at the Jan Karski Awards at the Polish Consulate in New York City on April 18.
Kurek, a historian on the Holocaust who has written extensively on the Nazi occupation of Poland, has previously stated that Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto was “fun,” and publicly condemned the “Jewish lie” that Poles did not do enough to save Jews during the Third Reich.
Historically sponsored by the Polish- Jewish Dialogue Committee, the organization said in a statement that it decided to nix the event “due to factors beyond our control,” adding that the consulate “continuously strives to deliver the message toward the heroic attitude of Jan Karski and his legacy.”
Jonny Daniels, an Israeli entrepreneur and award nominee for this year’s event, admonished the organization after learning of Kurek’s participation, calling it “beyond ridiculous and deeply offensive.”
“As Israel gets ready to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day I want to make a very clear and public statement of distancing myself from the so-called ‘Jan Karski Awards’ in New York,” Daniels wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
“Few have done so much to attempt to destroy Polish Jewish Relations as this lady, from lying about the involvement of criminal Poles in the murdering of Jews in Jedwabne, to outrageous conspiracies she actively promotes: that the ghettos during the Holocaust ‘were set up by Jews on Polish territories as a blueprint for the future Jewish state structures,’ ‘Jews had fun in the ghettos, not like Poles who suffered’ and ‘Jews kill their weakest in order to save their strongest.’
“In short, I am appalled and want nothing to do with any organization that could give such a hateful person a platform,” he wrote.
The prize is named after World War II resistance-movement fighter Jan Karski, who later reported to the Polish government in exile and the Western Allies on the situation in German-occupied Poland, helping expose the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the use of German- Nazi extermination camps.
Karski later became a professor at Georgetown University, lecturing on East European affairs, comparative government and international relations for more than 40 years.
Earlier this year, relations between Israel and Poland nosedived after Warsaw passed a law criminalizing the use of the term “Polish death camps” and implying Polish complicity in the Holocaust, punishable by fines and up to three years in prison.
Experts argued Poland was taking steps to whitewash its historical record of persecution against the nation’s Jewish population, with fears that the law would have a chilling effect on academic research into Poland’s role in the Holocaust.
A senior aide to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki quickly distanced Warsaw from the event and emphasized that the awards were not part of a government initiative.
But Dialogue Committee co-chairman Jeff Gottlieb appeared to contradict the Prime Minister’s Office, telling Tablet magazine that the ceremony would not be held due to Polish Consul-General Maciej Golubiewskia’s inability to attend the event.
“The cancellation is basically mostly due to rescheduling,” Gottlieb said. “According to the consul-general’s office, he’s really in Poland for those few days.”
Gottlieb added that his organization will meet with consulate officials in the coming days to reschedule the ceremony.
A request for comment to clarify the issue sent to the Polish-Jewish Dialogue Committee via email was not immediately returned to The Jerusalem Post
A request for comment sent to the Polish Consulate in New York also failed to elicit a response.
American right-wing political activist and Breitbart News contributor Matthew Tyrmand, who was also set to receive an award, expressed relief that the event was canceled after learning of Kurek’s participation.
“Common sense prevailed,” Tyrmand said. “Nobody wanted to be in a room with her, including me.”