Radicals should not be allowed to rewrite history - PM
In an interview for the Haaretz daily published on Friday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Poland should not allow some radicals to rewrite history.
In an interview titled "Polish Prime Minister to Haaretz: Tens of Thousands of Poles Aided Jews. We Won't Give in to Lies", Morawiecki stressed that the words of Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, who said that the Poles imbibed anti-Semitism with their mother's milk, were the reason why he cancelled his participation in the Summit of the Visegrad Group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) in Jerusalem.
"I have no problem with someone mentioning the fact that during the cruel, evil, dehumanizing war there were individual criminals in my nation – obviously there were, just as in every other nation. But when you use these stereotypes that 'every Pole suckled anti-Semitism out of their mother's breast' it's nothing short of racism," Morawiecki said.
Morawiecki pointed out that when he first heard of this, it seemed totally "unbelievable" to him. "Such words could be used by a radical extremist, but not by a foreign minister," he added.
In his opinion, there is no deep crisis between Poland and Israel. "I understand that in the course of an electoral campaign some politicians want to make headlines," the PM said, adding that the Polish government is one of the most pro-Israeli in the EU and the UN, and the V4 summit in Jerusalem was to be another step in building friendships between Poland and Israel.
"Poland is one of the few countries in the EU where the number of anti-Semitic incidents is decreasing, while in many others we are witnessing worrying developments," Morawiecki said, citing the recent report of the European Fundamental Rights Agency.
The PM pointed out that he spoke with Netanyahu about his speech, in which it appeared that Netanyahu blamed the Polish nation for collaboration with the Nazis in order to murder the Jews. According to the Polish PM, Netanyahu told him that "his words were misinterpreted by journalists."
Despite being pleased by Netanyahu’s explanation, Morawiecki said the delay in Israeli response "was not well-received in Poland."
Collaboration with (Nazi - PAP) Germany was never an official position of the Polish State. The wartime Underground Polish State persecuted all those who were denouncing Jews, sentenced them to death and executed them, even during the war," PM Morawiecki said.
He also underscored that occupied Poland was the only country in which a person helping Jews faced death penalty at the hands of the Germans. Despite that, "tens of thousands of Poles, perhaps even more, were helping their Jewish brethren," Morawiecki added.
"We share common history. Our nations were both victims of Nazi Germany. We should not allow some radicals to rewrite history and destroy the memory of that," the PM stated.
"I believe that we still need to educate people across the world, especially younger generations. Of all aspects of history. Of heroes and criminals alike. And about who was responsible for orchestrating these crimes," the Polish PM noted.
The Haaretz daily said that historians are divided about this narrative, and mentioned the criticism issued by a number of top Holocaust scholars from Yad Vashem, who believe that the Polish government is deliberately downplaying the Polish role in Nazi crimes and disproportionately emphasizing the actions by some Poles to help Jews during the Holocaust.
Morawiecki refuses to accept such charges. "Poland is no longer afraid. We experienced a terrible war and decades of occupation, and we were not able to defend ourselves from accusations. But now Poland will no longer give in to a pressure to accept lies, misleading phrases, let alone racist insults," he says.
"We are open to truth, even the most difficult truth about individual collaborators – but we will never agree to stretch their personal responsibility to the whole nation," the Polish PM stressed.