Netanyahu: Polish Premier's Claim of Jewish Perpetrators in Holocaust Is 'Outrageous'

Labor leader Gabbay calls on Israel to react harshly: 'Polish premier speaks like a run-of-the-mill Holocaust denier'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, February 16, 2018.
SVEN HOPPE/AFP

MUNICH – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply rebuked the remarks of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who said earlier on Saturday that the Holocaust had both Polish and Jewish perpetrators.

"The Polish prime minister's remarks here in Munich are outrageous. There is a problem here of an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people," Netanyahu said, vowing to speak with him shortly.

Moraweicki made the statement at the Munich Security Conference in response to a question by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman regarding the controversial law that criminalizes mentioning the Polish nation's complicity in the Holocaust.

Netanyahu also responded to the incident that occurred on Israel's border with Gaza Saturday, in which four soldiers were wounded after a device exploded. "Today's incident on the Gaza Strip border today is severe. We will respond appropriately. I send my wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded," he said.

Survivors and guests walk past the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate at Auschwitz, the former Nazi German concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2018.
Czarek Sokolowski/AP

On Friday Netanyahu met with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on the sidelines of the conference. Netanyahu called the meeting "very friendly" and said Austria is taking measures "against anti-Semitism and for Israel." This was the first meeting between the two since Kurz was elected to lead Austria and formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. Following the formation, Israel decided to boycott ministers from the party, which has Nazi roots.

Netanyahu is also working on taking Israel's relations with Central European countries to a new level. Last week he proposed hosting a meetnig of the Visegrad group of nations in Israel in the coming months.

Israeli lawmakers were very critical of the Polish primier's comments on the Holocaust.

Zionist Union lawmaker Tzipi Livni, who is also attending the Munich conference, responded to Moraweicki's statement by saying, "It is hard to believe the Polish prime minister's answer, and his intolerable comparison between the Polish and the Jews, between the victims and those who actively took part in the killings."

She added that it was moving to hear Bergman attack the Polish prime minister regarding the Holocaust law while telling his mother's survival story.

Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay said in response that “Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks like a run-of-the-mill Holocaust denier. The blood of millions of Jews cries out from Polish soil over the historical injustice and flight from blame. Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and Poles took an active part in their murder. The government of Israel must be the voice for millions of the murdered and harshly denounce the Polish prime minister’s remarks.”

Yair Lapid, the chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party, tweeted: “The Polish Prime Minister’s statement is antisemitism of the oldest kind. The perpetrators are not the victims. The Jewish state will not allow the murdered to be blamed for their own murder. I again call upon the Prime Minister to immediately recall our Ambassador to Israel.”

Zionist Union lawmaker Amir Peretz, who previously served as Israel's defense minister, said that “Statements by Poland’s prime minister about ‘Jewish criminals’ in World War II, in which 6 million Jews were murdered, are disgusting and irresponsible.” He said that the Polish prime minister’s remarks “pave the way for Holocaust deniers and could yet inspire even sicker voices that will accuse the Jews of collective suicide of 6 million,” adding: “These statements must not be ignored, especially when they come from the prime minister of Poland.”

“The Polish prime minister is actually blaming the Jews for the Holocaust,” said Ksenia Svetlova, another lawmaker from the Zionist Union. “This is the only way to understand his shocking statements at the Munich conference.”

“The Polish law that prohibits talking about the involvement of Poles in the Holocaust is not a chance stumble, but a calculated policy of absolving the Polish people of the terrible and not so distant past,” she continued. “Other European countries [share] this trend ... And so a harsh Israeli response is so important. Otherwise in a few weeks or months we’ll discover that similar remarks are being made in other European capitals.”

“I’ll say it again: A country that rewrites the Holocaust cannot be a friend and partner to Israel, the only Jewish state in the world,” said Svetlova. “The government of Israel must work against these statements and vehemently oppose them, including recalling the ambassadors and going as far as cutting ties.”

Robert Ilatov, chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, said that “The Polish prime minister will stop at nothing to legitimize the Polish Holocaust denial law. With cynical politeness and without batting an eye, the Polish prime minister denies the Holocaust and rewrites the most terrible tragedy in our people’s history. Any comparison between the Jews and the Poles with regard to the Holocaust is like a crime. The blood of the 3 million Jews murdered in Poland, among other things with the active support of the Polish people, cries out from the soil.

“If it’s so important for the Polish prime minister to present the truth to the world, let him begin by preparing a list of all the assets stolen from the Jews by the Poles during the Holocaust, taking advantage of and fully adopting the race laws passed in Nuremberg. To this day, millions of Polish citizens are using and living from these assets, showing no willingness at all to return them.”