AFP | Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki gives a speech during the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP)
WARSAW: Poland on Sunday sought to defend remarks by its prime minister which Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu called “outrageous” and amounted to denying the Holocaust.
“The comments of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during a discussion in Munich 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,” Morawiecki’s spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said in a statement.
The Israeli premier, who like Morawiecki was in Munich for a global security conference, on Saturday responded angrily to the remark that the Holocaust had involved “Jewish perpetrators” as well as Polish ones.
It showed “an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people”, Netanyahu said in a statement.
Morawiecki’s spokeswoman countered on Sunday that to the contrary the Polish prime minister “has repeatedly and categorically opposed denial of the Holocaust-the murder of European Jewry-as well as anti-Semitism in all its forms”.
Morawiecki’s claim about the Holocaust’s perpetrators came amid an unprecedented diplomatic row with Israel sparked by a controversial law passed by Poland’s senate this month.
The law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing “responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich”.
On Saturday Morawiecki had been questioned by a journalist who told of his mother’s narrow escape from the Gestapo in Poland after learning that neighbours were planning to denounce them, and asked if recounting that would now be against the law in Poland.
Morawiecki responded: “It’s not going to be 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 Ukraine and German perpetrators.”
After a slew of negative reactions to the comments, the Polish PM’s spokeswoman sought to clarify the remark saying his words “should be interpreted as a sincere call for open discussion of crimes committed against Jews during the Holocaust, regardless of the nationality of those involved in each crime.”
“Each crime must be judged individually, and no single act of wickedness should burden with responsibility entire nations, which were conquered and enslaved by Nazi Germany,” she said.