Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki has hastily called off a trip to Israel after Benjamin Netanyahu made what is reported to be a brief, off-hand comment about Poland, Nazis, and the Holocaust.
As the BBC reports, while visiting Warsaw, Netanyahu was alleged to have stated that “Poles co-operated with the Germans” at the time of the Holocaust. Netanyahu has since clarified that his comment was never meant to have been directed specifically at the Polish nation, nor did he think that all Polish people were complicit in their cooperation with Nazis during the Holocaust.
Netanyahu’s comments swiftly made headlines in Israel, reaching both the Jerusalem Post as well as Haaretz. The Jerusalem Post has admitted that at first they used the phrase “Polish nation” with regard to the Israeli PM’s comments but has since changed the wording to better reflect what Netanyahu had meant to say.
Netanyahu’s office has also issued a statement clarifying what the Israeli PM intended to say, noting, “In a briefing, PM Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland.”
Despite these clarifications, Morawiecki announced on Sunday that he would not be attending the Visegrad summit this week, a conference he was invited to attend along with other prime ministers from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
Morawiecki has further taken to Twitter to insist that during the Holocaust, there was absolutely “no Polish regime” to speak of when the Nazis took over Poland.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cancels visit to Israel after Netanyahu suggested Polish people helped Germans kill Jews during the Holocausthttps://t.co/RfoP2jl18M— DAILY SABAH (@DailySabah) February 17, 2019
While Polish government spokesperson Joanna Kopcinska had initially confirmed that Poland PM Morawiecki would be sending Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz in his place to the conference in Jerusalem, Poland’s president Andrzej Duda announced that if Netanyahu meant what he said about Polish participation during the Holocaust that “Israel would not be a good place to meet” after all.
Deeming Netanyahu’s comments in Warsaw to be “racist” in nature, Poland has decided to not participate at all in the upcoming summit, which has been canceled as a result.
At the time of World War II, both Nazis and Soviets occupied Poland, and 5 million Polish people were massacred. Jewish people made up the largest percentage of those that were killed, with 3 million Jews given a death sentence.
However, Poland is extremely sensitive to terms like “Polish death camps” as they believe that this suggests that Polish people were also involved in the brutal massacre of Jewish people. Because of this, in February 2018, Poland created a law that punishes anyone who accuses them of siding with the Nazis during World War II and helping to take part in the extermination of Jewish people.
After this law was put into place, Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin let it be publicly known that while many Polish people did indeed fight their Nazi occupiers, “Poland and Poles had a hand in the extermination” that occurred during World War II.
Poland has since changed their law somewhat and now those who suggest Poland had a hand in helping to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust will no longer be faced with the prospect of spending three years in jail.
With Poland backing out of the upcoming conference in Israel, Netanyahu is reportedly planning to meet with the other leaders separately now that the conference has been officially called off.