The Jewish population in the Eastern European nation of Poland are fearing an increase in anti-semitism after the introduction of a controversial law making it a criminal offense to say that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.
Anna Chipczynska, the head of Warsaw’s Jewish community, said members feel ‘”psychologically shaken” and even “depressed” over the increasingly poor treatment of Jews in the country. Israeli officials have strongly criticised a new Polish bill criminalizing the mention of Polish complicity in the Nazi-led genocide.
In the wake of the new law, Israel has accused Poland of seeking to ulitize the law with the aim of whitewashing the role of the Poles who helped Germans slaughter Jews during the Second World War.
Recent antisemitic incidents include an occasion when two men tried to urinate in front of Warsaw’s historic Nozyk Synagogue, and then proceeded to shout obscenities.
The controversy was worsened when Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki equated Polish collaborators in the Holocaust to alleged “Jewish perpetrators.” Israel immediately responded with criticism of the PM’s comments.
“A comparison between the activities of Poles and the activities of Jews during the Holocaust is unfounded,” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office said. “Dialogue about this most difficult history is necessary, as a warning. We will conduct such dialogue with Israel,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.
There were repercussions in Israel, too. Vandals painted black swastikas, expletives and the word “murderer” on the entrance to Poland’s Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israeli police said Sunday, as reported by CBS News.
The Polish PM had been asked a question about the new law that supposedly seeks to criminalize any suggestion that Poland was complicit in the Holocause. “Of course 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 Ukrainian, not only German perpetrators,” Morawiecki said in response. The uproar was immediate.
The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, issued an urgent statement demanding an “immediate retraction and apology” from Poland. Lauder added that placing Jews in the same category as the other nationalities was “nothing short of an attempt to falsify history that rings of the very worst forms of anti-Semitism and Holocaust obfuscation.”
Beata Mazurek, the spokeswoman for Poland’s conservative ruling party, took a very different view, insisting that Morawiecki “told the truth that is difficult for the Israeli side to accept.”
“There is no need to apologize for telling the truth,” Mazurek added.
“The Holocaust, the genocide of Jews committed by Nazi Germans was an extremely terrifying crime. In these terrible times, there were individuals among all nations, who were ready to make gestures of the greatest mercy,” the Polish prime minister further explained on Twitter.
“And unfortunately, there were also individuals, who by collaborating with Nazi Germans, showed the darkest side of human nature.”
He claimed that his response to the question posed by the journalist was “by no means intended to deny the Holocaust.”