Poland Disavows PM's Father's Claim That Jews Moved to Ghettos to Get Away From non-Jews

Poland says the remarks that Jews saw ghettos as 'enclaves where they could get away from nasty Poles' do not reflect the position of the government

In this 1943 file photo, a group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto by German troops after an uprising in the Jewish quarter
AP

Poland's government is distancing itself from comments made by the prime minister's father, who claimed Jews willingly entered ghettos during the German occupation of Poland to escape their non-Jewish neighbors.

The comment by Kornel Morawiecki, a senior lawmaker and father of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, followed months of diplomatic tension between Israel and Poland over the a new law criminalizing attribution of the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish nation.

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The new bill forbids any mention of participation of the "Polish nation" in crimes committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, and sets out fines and prison terms of up to three years for anyone who violates the legislation.

Kornel Morawiecki claimed in a recent interview that Jews were not forced into ghettos by Germans but went willingly because "they were told there would be an enclave where they could get away from nasty Poles." He also said this week that Jews  had abetted the Germans.

"Who sent the Jews to the Umschlagpatz?" the elder Morawiecki asked, referring to a holding area Nazi Germany set up by the railway station in occupied Poland where ghetto Jews were gathered for transport to the concentration camp. "Was it the Germans? No, the Jewish police," he said.

The deputy foreign minister, Bartosz Cichocki, said Thursday that the comments made by Morawiecki an interview published Tuesday by the online magazine Kultur Liberaln “do not reflect” the position of the Polish government.

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Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki talks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich
REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

The new Polish law also bars use of the term "Polish death camp" to describe the death camps where Jews and others were murdered in Nazi-occupied Poland during the World War II.

While geographically located in today’s Poland, the camps were under the full control of the Nazi occupation forces during the Second World War.

With the new law, the Polish government wants to make sure ambiguous terminology such as “Polish death camp” does not mislead new generations into believing they were set up by the Poles themselves.

However, critics inside and outside Israel said the new law is wrong in criminalizing all references to the involvement of Poles in the Holocaust.

Poles have time and again taken direct action against the Jewish minority, notably in the Kielce pogrom of 1946 when residents attacked Jews after the Nazi regime had already fallen.

The crisis escalated last month when the prime minister said that the Holocaust had not only German, Ukrainian and Polish perpetrators, but Jewish ones as well. His Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the remark “outrageous.”

Commenting on the charge of “Jewish complicity” in the Holocaust leveraged by his son, Kornel Morawiecki mentioned the Zagiew ring of Jewish informants that the Germans used to infiltrate resistance groups.

“Who sent Jews to the Umschlagplatz?” Kornel Morawiecki asked, using the German word for places, often city squares, where Jews were rounded up to be deported to death camps. “Did the Germans do it? No! The Jewish police were on the Umschlagplatz!”

While strongly condemning the new legislation and the references to “Jewish collaboration in the Holocaust," Netanyahu stopped short of recalling Israel's Ambassador to Poland.

JTA contributed to the report.