Polish Official Fired After Calling Holocaust Law 'Stupid'

The dismissal comes a day after the official criticized in an interview a legislation passed in 2018 originally seeking to outlaw blaming Poland as a nation for Holocaust crimes

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Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau speaks at a NATO summit in Latvia, last month.
Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau speaks at a NATO summit in Latvia, last month.Credit: Ints Kalnins/Reuters

A Polish diplomat charged with improving contacts with Jews worldwide has been fired after he criticized his own government's approach to regulating Holocaust speech, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Jaroslaw Nowak, the plenipotentiary for contacts with the Jewish diaspora described a Holocaust speech law passed by his country's ruling party as “stupid.”

Nowak also said Poland should pass a law on property restitution, a statement implying further criticism of the ruling authorities, who recently passed a law cutting off the chances for restitution or compensation for those who had properties seized by the communists. Among those affected are Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau fired Nowak on Saturday, the ministry spokesman, Lukasz Jasina, announced Monday on Twitter.

The development comes only days after Poland recalled its new ambassador to Prague after that diplomat criticized his own country — in that case, in relation to Poland's approach to a dispute with the Czech Republic over a state-run coal mine.

Nozyk Synagogue and parts of the old Jewish quarter before World War II, in Warsaw, in 2016. Credit: Czarek Sokolowsk /AP

The dismissal of Nowak came a day after an interview was published by Jewish News U.K. in which Nowak said legislation passed in 2018 seeking to ban certain statements about Poland and the Holocaust “is one of the stupidest amendments that was ever done by any law.”

The legislation sought to fight back against claims that Poland, a victim of Nazi Germany, bore responsibility for the Holocaust. It outraged Israel, where many felt it was an attempt to whitewash the fact that some Poles did kill Jews during the German occupation during World War II.

The legislation originally outlawed blaming Poland as a nation for Holocaust crimes committed by Nazi Germany, with prison terms of up to three years for falsely attributing German crimes to Poland. It was later amended to remove the criminal provisions.

Last year Poland also approved a law that sharply restricts the rights of Holocaust survivors or their descendants to reclaim property seized by the country’s former communist regime.

That law provoked a serious diplomatic dispute with Israel which still remains unresolved.

“I think at some point Poland will have to really come to the conclusion that we have to do something about restitution”, Nowak said.

Nowak has been involved in Polish-Jewish dialogue since the 1980s. He became the plenipotentiary for contacts with the Jewish diaspora in July.

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