NEW YORK (Sep. 27)
Poland’s new democracy will set the stage for improving relations between Poland and the Jewish world, including Israel, a leading Solidarity member of the Polish parliament said Tuesday during a visit here.
Janusz Onyszkiewicz told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that full diplomatic relations between Poland and Israel should soon be restored.
He also called for the repeal of the 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism.
He cited the recent visit of an Israeli trade delegation to Poland as evidence that ties would soon be re-established between the two countries.
The declarations followed an emotional exchange with Jewish leaders, among them leaders of Holocaust survivor organizations.
Onyszkiewicz pledged his country’s “new democracy will help eradicate certain ghosts of Poland’s past, such as anti-Semitism.”
The Jewish leaders questioned the newly elected deputy to the Sejm, as Poland’s parliament is called, on the extent of anti-Semitism in Poland, the perception of Jews vis-a-vis the Holocaust and the recent offensive statements made by Cardinal Jozef Glemp regarding the convent at Auschwitz.
Reuben Gruenbaum, president of the National Council of Young Israel and a survivor of Auschwitz, spoke of how the Holocaust was being “Christianized and de-Judaized.”
NOT ‘RABID ANTI-SEMITES’
Identifying himself as a witness, Gruenbaum described how “Poles willingly helped the Nazis demolish the small town where I was born. Those who were slaughtered in Auschwitz died not as Polish citizens but because they were Jews.”
Onyszkiewicz, a leading figure in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Sejm who was jailed twice by the Communists for human rights activism, conceded there were parts of his nation’s past of which he would “not be proud.”
But he denied that Poles are “rabid anti-Semites.” The words were his and came in response to statements by conference members who referred to the long history of Polish anti-Semitism.
“Jews were part of Polish culture for 1,000 years,” he said. “They lived side by side with us in one country and contributed much to its advancement.”
Noting that Poland’s new democracy is only three weeks old, Onyszkiewicz begged for time to address some of the issues posed by the American Jewish leaders.
The country’s top priority now is the rebuilding of its shattered economy and government, he said.
“I believe anti-Semitism is on the way out. When we open our windows wide to the outside world, we’ll let the fresh air in and clean it out for good,” he said.