Poland's Premier: There Were Polish Perpetrators in the Holocaust Just as There Were Jewish Ones

Answering a question from an Israeli journalist regarding controversial Holocaust law, Mateusz Morawiecki reiterates that Polish people aided their Jewish brothers and sisters

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in the Munich Security Conference, February 17, 2018
THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP

MUNICH — Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Saturday that the Holocaust had Polish perpetrators, just as it had Jewish ones.

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. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply rebuked the 'outrageous' remarks.

Bergman told of his mother's past as a Holocaust survivor and concluded by asking, "If I told her story in Poland, I would be considered a criminal. What are you trying to do? You're drawing more fire to the matter." The crowd applauded following the question.

The Polish prime minister said that according to the amended law, those who claim that there were Polish perpetrators in the Holocaust would not be punished, since there were Polish perpetrators, "just as there were Jewish and Russian perpetrators, as well."

He reiterated his government's policy that there were no Polish death camps, as Poland was under German occupation and the correct term should be German death camps. He added that the Polish people aided "their Jewish brothers and sisters" in the Holocaust. You must not confuse the perpetrators with the victims of the Holocaust, he said.

Zionist Union lawmaker Tzipi Livni, who is also attending the conference, responded to Moraweicki's remarks 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."

Other Israeli lawmakers similarly criticized the Polish premier and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to respond harshly.

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

Israel has vehemently criticized the bill ever since it's proposal, with Morawiecki recognizing the poor timing of the bill but stressing that "All the atrocities and all the victims, everything that happened during World War II on Polish soil, has to be attributed to Germany."

"We will never be accused of complicity in the Holocaust. This is our 'to be or not to be,'" he has previously said.

The legislation, which was approved by the Polish parliament, had referred the legislation to the Constitutional Tribunal to consider its constitutionality, and added that possible prison sentence and fines "are not really designed to punish anyone." The law will also be difficult to enforce, he acknowledged, and may be subject to changes required by the country's constitutional tribunal.

Regardless, the law will go into effect next week.