Peres hosts Polish PM, heralds new era of relations

Polish-born Peres to pay a state visit to Poland starting next Monday, to commemorate 65th anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

tusk kotel 224.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
tusk kotel 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Wednesday heard one of the most welcome declarations that any Polish leader since World War II has heard from a Jewish leader. President Shimon Peres told the visiting Tusk that he represents something new in the new Poland - "new hopes and new expectations." But more than that, Peres in recalling the symbiotic relationship between Poles and Jews for the best part of a thousand years, said that even though that relationship was not always rosy, the Poles allowed Jewish culture to flourish, and allowed Jews to live and pray in their own language. Although there had been difficult times, he said, it was not only the Jews who suffered, but also Poles. "The Germans brought about the greatest catastrophe on Polish land," said Peres. "But it wasn't Polish responsibility. It was German responsibility." There was a great deal of "Polish spirit" in the veins of Israeli culture, said Peres, who mentioned the large number of Israelis with Polish roots, and added that Israel's first government was made up largely of Polish Jews. The Polish-born Peres will pay a state visit to Poland starting on Monday and participate in the 65th anniversary commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Tusk said his country's membership in the European Union was not only good for Poland but also good for Israel, and would serve to enhance the relationship between the countries. Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich - here as part of Tusk's entourage - told The Jerusalem Post that when he returns to Poland on Thursday, he will start koshering the kitchen in the Belvedere Palace where Peres will be staying, as well the kitchen of the Sheraton hotel, where the menu for the state dinner to be hosted by President Lech Kaczynski will be prepared. Schudrich said that while there was no official anti-Semitism in Poland, there was no reason to minimize the fact that anti-Semitism did exist there. "But we also have an obligation to speak of Poles who fight to preserve Jewish memory," he said. Schudrich said that Warsaw Jews were proud that the Israeli president wanted to be with them in a time of continuity and not in a time of destruction. The Jews of Warsaw today were fighting a different kind of battle, he said, "a battle [against] the loss of identity and [for] a place in the Jewish world." Asked why the left-wing heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto were embedded in collective Jewish memory whereas right-wing heroes had been all but overlooked, Peres said that in the final analysis, there had been a fighting Jewish coalition in Poland that paved the way for the fighters in Israel's War of Independence. Hundreds of Jewish youth from Israel and elsewhere will join Peres at various events during his four-day visit. During his three-day state visit, Tusk will meet with Israelis of Polish background, and with Polish Jews living in Israel. Next week, Peres will address the Polish parliament and meet with government and opposition representatives, Warsaw's Jewish community in the Nozyk Synagogue, and representatives of Righteous Among the Nations, those who have been recognized for risking their lives to save Jews during World War II. Towards the end of his visit he will meet with Warsaw Ghetto survivors. Peres will fly to Poland in an Israel Air Force plain whose other passengers will include IDF officers, Holocaust survivors and high school students. His first stop will be the Treblinka extermination camp, where at least 800,000 people - almost all Jews - were murdered by the Nazis.