ROME (JTA) — Just two days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a leading Polish bishop was quoted as accusing Jews of exploiting the Holocaust for propaganda purposes.
Tadeusz Pieronek later said on Polish television that his remarks, which appeared Monday on a conservative Italian Catholic Web site, had been manipulated and taken out of context.
"The Holocaust, as such, is a Jewish invention," Pieronek, a former head of the Polish bishops’ conference, was quoted as saying in an interview run on the Web site.
“Undoubtedly, the majority of those who died in the concentration camps were Jews, but also on the list were Poles, Gypsies, Italians and Catholics. So it’s not right to expropriate this tragedy to make propaganda,” he added.
Pieronek reportedly said memorial days should be established for other victims of communist and other persecutions. But, he added, "The Jews enjoy good press because they have powerful financial means behind them, enormous power and the unconditional backing of the United States, and this favors a certain arrogance that I find unbearable."
Pieronek also was quoted as attacking Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.
“Seeing the photographs of the wall, we can conclude that a colossal injustice has been committed against the Palestinians, who are treated like animals and their rights are being violated,” he was quoted as saying, making reference to Israel’s security fence.
Jewish leaders sharply criticized the remarks.
“We find it unacceptable that an important religious figure in Poland, only a few days away from International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is capable of making such inflammatory and false remarks” European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor said. “The false accusations made by Bishop Pieronek once again show the underlying anti-Semitism that still lingers among some European clergymen in the Catholic Church — especially in regards to the Holocaust.”
Kantor added, “More than ever before, the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau must be marked on the 27th of January 2010 as a symbol of the fight against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and historical revisionism, promoting peace, understanding and tolerance.”
On Polish TV, Pieronek said he had not seen the printed text of the interview.
"But if I were to believe in what I hear from the media," he said, "then it looks as though the final form of the interview was the idea of the journalist that I had spoken to, as the text is full of vague statements."