NEW YORK—Relations between world Jewry and Poland soared after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s reported statement that providing restitution to Polish Jews for property stolen from them during the Holocaust would be tantamount to “Hitler’s posthumous victory” and that he will never allow it to happen.
Calling on Poland to pay compensation for World War II “violates international law and would also be a posthumous victory for Hitler,” he said.
Under his ruling Law and Justice party, he added, “something like this will never happen.”
In a statement issued on Monday, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder expressed outrage at the statement which he characterized as “reprehensible.”
“Poland was itself subjected to years of savage Nazi occupation, which makes its failure to appropriately confront the tragedy of millions of its Jewish citizens who were earmarked for annihilation by the Germans especially troubling. Successive Polish governments have steadfastly refused to recognize the material losses of Polish Jewry and have essentially treated their homes and other property as the spoils of war–and individual Poles and Polish institutions have profiteered from these assets for more than seven decades,” Lauder said.
“This unwillingness to acknowledge that the victims of the Holocaust and their heirs are entitled to a modicum of material justice is unfortunate enough,” Lauder continued, “but Prime Minister Morawiecki’s contention–assuming that it was uttered as reported–that providing restitution to Jews for their stolen property would be ‘Hitler’s posthumous victory’ is alarming in the extreme. I hope that Prime Minister Morawiecki was misquoted and can provide an explanation. Otherwise the sentiments underlying his words can only be characterized as reprehensible and must be thoroughly rejected. As a longtime friend of Poland and the Polish people, I call upon Prime Minister Morawiecki to either deny or retract this deeply offensive and utterly incomprehensible statement.”
Several days earlier, in a front-page op-ed article in the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, President Lauder wrote of his long term admiration for Poland and his many years of engagement in that country, and called upon Polish political and religious leaders to forcefully denounce the latest manifestations of antisemitism, including the citation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion by the Bishop of Tarnow in a homily to the faithful. Lauder pledged to continue to actively struggle against the obfuscation of history and to call out those who, out of ignorance or malevolence, blacken Poland’s reputation by suggesting that it was somehow to blame for the crimes committed at Auschwitz and other German death and concentration camps in occupied Poland. 6:03 pm
Relations between Poland and Israel have also been strained over the past year over the reparations issue and and Polish guilt regarding the Holocaust.
Last week, an Israeli man spat on the Polish ambassador to Israel. Morawiecki issued an intense response to the incident, calling it “racist.”
Poland also canceled a visit from an Israeli delegation scheduled for talks on reparations. According to Warsaw, it “decided to cancel the visit of Israeli officials after the Israeli side made last-minute changes in the composition of the delegation suggesting that the talks would primarily focus on the issues related to property restitution.”
Last year, Poland outlawed any speech that blames Poland for the crimes of the Holocaust, leading to a major spat with Israel, with politicians accusing the Poles of denying history and the role of Poles in the extermination of the country’s Jews.