Polish Jewish Community Leader Defends President’s Decision to Skip Holocaust Memorial Event

'If Polish memory is under attack, we defend it,' says Artur Hofman, but opinions in Jewish community are mixed, according to chief rabbi

JTA
Katarzyna Markusz
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Poland's Andrzej Duda speaks at a ceremony marking National Independence Day, Warsaw, Poland November 11, 2019
Poland's Andrzej Duda speaks at a ceremony marking National Independence Day, Warsaw, Poland November 11, 2019Credit: Reuters / Agencja Gazeta
JTA
Katarzyna Markusz

Artur Hofman, chairman of the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland, defended the decision of President Andrzej Duda to skip a major Holocaust memorial event in Jerusalem.

“This is our president and our government. We unconditionally stand behind them. If Polish memory is under attack, we defend it. The world’s largest commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz will take place in Poland,” Hofman said in an interview published Friday.

Duda announced last week that he would not participate in the 5th Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, scheduled for January 23. Duda wanted to give a speech there, but the organizers did not include him on the program. The Polish president will speak instead on January 27 at the Auschwitz Museum, during a ceremony marking the anniversary of the liberation of the camp.

Hofman’s comments came days after a speech Duda delivered to the Jewish community on January 8, in which he spoke at length about his decision, noting that it was unacceptable that the leaders of Germany and Russia would be permitted to speak at the event but not Poland.

“How is it possible that the ones who speak are the presidents of Germany, Russia and France whose government back then sent people, Jews, to concentration camps, whereas the president of Poland is not allowed to speak, of Poland who never collaborated with Germans, whose underground state was fighting against Germans and tried to support Jews as resolutely as it could,” Duda said.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Poland’s chief rabbi, said opinions in the Jewish community about Duda’s decision were mixed.

“It’s not important if I agree or disagree,” Schudrich told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “What’s important is that I understand the reasons for this decision. It is certainly nothing to do with Poland’s relationship to Holocaust memory but rather to contemporary politics.”

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