Polish Jews Ready for Dialogue With New President, Leaders Say

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Andrzej Duda
Andrzej Duda, the Polish Law & Justice Party candidate, gestures to his supporters in Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2015.Credit: Bloomberg

Leaders of Poland’s Jewish community said Polish Jews are ready to cooperate with the country’s new president.

Andrzej Duda won Sunday’s presidential elections in Poland. Duda, whose father-in-law Julian Kornhauser is a well-known Polish-Jewish poet, garnered 51 percent of the vote, according to official results certified on Sunday night. His opponent, former president Bronislaw Komorowski, received 48 percent of the vote.

Duda, a conservative politician, criticized the Komorowski’s apologies in recent years for the massacre that Polish farmers perpetrated against their Jewish neighbors in Jedwabne. The 1941 Jedwabne pogrom, in which dozens of Jews were burned alive by villagers who trapped them inside a barn, was exposed in the early 2000s by the historian Jan Gross.

Duda said of Jedwabne during the presidential debate that: “The nation of victims was also the nation of perpetrators.” According to Duda, the whole Polish nation cannot be blamed for war crimes, as Komorowski’s apologies seem to indicate.

Duda called Komorowski’s apologies an “attempt to destroy Poland’s good name.”

Polish Newsweek during the presidential campaign reported that Duda’s Jewish father- in-law wrote a poem damning the Kielce pogrom in 1946, in which 42 Jews were killed. Pawel Spiewak, director of the Jewish Historical Institute, accused the magazine’s editor in chief of anti-Semitism.

Duda is a member of the conservative right-wing Law and Justice Party. On Monday he announced that he will resign from membership in the party in order to serve as an independent president.

Duda had clinched 34.8 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election earlier this month, beating Komorowski by 1 percent

“I hope that the new president will go the way of one of his predecessors, Lech Kaczynski, with whom I had a chance to cooperate on many occasions and whom I considered a friend of Polish Jews,” Piotr Kadlcik, Jewish activist and board member of the Warsaw Jewish Community, told JTA.

Leslaw Piszewski, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, called for dialogue.

“I hope that after taking the presidential office, there will be time for reflection and thoughtful dialogue with the Jewish community, which is an integral part of the Polish state,” Piszewski said. “The issues important to us, such as a common historical memory, restitution, and the protection of monuments of Jewish culture, will be perceived, discussed and supported by the president, as should be done in any democratic state.”

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