Polish crisis likely over after Israeli clarification of Netanyahu comment

"Poles cooperated with the Germans" during the Holocaust, Netanyahu said.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
February 15, 2019 09:20
4 minute read.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in New York.

Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in New York on September 26, 2018.. (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)

 
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A diplomatic crisis between Poland and Israel seems to have been resolved Friday morning, after the Prime Minister's Office clarified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments, which he made in Warsaw on Thursday.

The Polish government said that they received the clarification and that it was good things were sorted out.

The statement blamed journalistic misrepresentation of Netanyahu's comments for causing the crisis.

Thursday night, Polish President Andrzej Duda called on the V4 summit, slated to take place in Jerusalem next week, to be moved to a different location, in light of Netanyahu's comments that Poles cooperated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Duda wrote on Twitter on Thursday night that he would be ready to host the summit in the President's Residence in Wisla, saying that "Israel is not a good place to meet in this situation, despite previous arrangements."

The V4, or Visegrad group summit is a consortium of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, and the summit in Jerusalem would mark the first time the group meets outside of Europe.


Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to push back against a Polish law that prohibits broad statements that the Poland as a state or as a nation, collaborated with the Nazis to kill Jews during World War II.

"Poles cooperated with the Germans" during the Holocaust, Netanyahu said.

He spoke toward the end of a two day trip to Warsaw as he sat in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews located in the heart of what had been the Warsaw Ghetto.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid attacked Netanyahu after resolving the crisis, saying "instead of the Poles apologizing to us for the millions who perished in Poland during the Holocaust, for their assistance to the Nazis, Netanyahu for the second time apologizes to them."

Lapid said that Netanyahu "should have told the Polish prime minister: Cancel the plane ticket now, don't come here, because we don't grovel over the memory of the Holocaust and don't conduct negotiations over it because we have national pride and honor, and we honor the memory of those who perished. "

Prior to World War II, Warsaw had the largest Jewish community in Europe and the second largest in the world after New York. Overall, some 3 million Jews lived in Poland, but only a fraction survived the Holocaust. Poland’s Jewish community today numbers less than 10,000.

Prior to leaving Warsaw, after attending a US led summit on the Middle East, Netanyahu paused to pay homage to the victims of the Holocaust by attending a small ceremony by the memorial to the Jewish resistance fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto together with US Vice President Mike Pence and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Netanyahu and Pence also signed the Museum’s guest book.

Then in a meeting with Israeli reporters in the Museum Netanyahu said that Poles had helped Germans kill Jews during WWII, and that this was a known fact.

“I am saying it here, there is no argument about this,” Netanyahu said.

But he differentiated between the past and the present, explaining that today antisemitism is worse in western Europe than in eastern Europe.

Netanyahu spoke in advance of the visit to Israel next week by Morawiecki for the V4 summit. KAN News reporter Amichai Stein tweeted on Thursday night that Morawiecki was now considering canceling his trip.

At the Museum Pence thanked Netanyahu for his commitment to the historical alliance between their two countries, adding that “Israel is our cherished ally.”

“It’s very humbling for me to be here with you in this very special place on this sacred ground, to hear a prayer sung, to remember the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto,” he said. “It reminds us of the strength of the bond between our two people.”

Netanyahu agreed that it was “deeply meaningful” for this meeting to occur at the site of the Warsaw Ghetto.

“It was merely some 75 years ago that the Jewish people were absolutely defenseless. We were slaughtered by the millions here by the Nazis and their collaborators. And we could do nothing,” he said.

“I think it’s significant in that, in this hour of despair, right here on this ground, the young Jewish heroes, with literally their last ounce of strength, withstood against thousands of Nazi troops. They said, ‘If we must die, let us die as free men and women, and let us save the honor of the Jewish people.’

“Little did they know that they were actually, in many ways, symbolizing the rebirth of the Jewish people, the rebirth of the Jewish state, which was soon to come, and the rebirth of the Jewish army that protects now the Jewish future.”

When the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto rose up in their famous revolt in early 1943, “no one came here to help us,” Netanyahu said.

“Today we have built our own capacity to defend ourselves, but we have a great friend. And the greatest friend of all is the United States of America. There’s no alliance like ours.”

Read more from Netanyahu's trip to Warsaw.

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