(JTA) — In defending a controversial law limiting rhetoric on the Holocaust, Poland’s prime minister again angered Israeli politicians by saying that the genocide had ”Jewish perpetrators.”
Mateusz Morawiecki said this Saturday at the Munich Security Conference during an interview with Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist, in which he spoke about the law passed earlier this month. It criminalizes claims that the Polish nation or state are responsible for Nazi crimes.
“The Polish Prime Minister’s remarks here in Munich are outrageous,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued on Saturday evening. “There is a problem here of an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people. I intend to speak with him forthwith,” he said of Morawiecki.
Netanyahu last month already protested the law that Morawiecki was defending, as did many Jewish groups that warned it would limit debate about the Holocaust and serve to obscure the actions of Poles who betrayed Jews to the Germans or killed them.
“Of course it’s not going to be punishable, [it’s] not going to be seen as criminal to say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian; not only German perpetrators,” Morawiecki told Bergman.
The leader of the Zionist Union party in Israel, Avi Gabai, wrote on Twitter: “Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki talks like the last of the Holocaust deniers. The blood of millions of Jews cries out from the ground in Poland over the distortion of history and escape from blame.”
Dozens of Jews are known to have collaborated with the Nazis in Germany alone, helping the Nazis track down other Jews in hiding, often in the hope of escaping the Nazi death machine. Hundreds of Jews served as Kapos, internal Jewish police officers, and administrators in the service of the Nazis. Some of them tortured and murdered other Jews.
Several Jewish collaborators with the Nazis were tried in Israel and elsewhere for their actions. Among the most famous was Stella Kübler, who survived the Holocaust by detecting and betraying many other Jews to the Nazis in Germany. She served 10 years in a Soviet labor camp for her actions before converting to Christianity and spreading anti-Semitic propaganda.
Thousands of Poles are believed to have collaborated with the Nazis, resulting in the death of many thousands of victims, according to Efraim Zuroff, Eastern Europe director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Thousands of non-Jewish Poles also rescued thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. The Nazis killed three million Polish Jews and another three million non-Jewish ones.
Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths Holocaust commemoration group in Warsaw, said Morawiecki was wrong to mention “Jewish perpetrators” alongside Polish ones.
“Jews who collaborated with the German Nazis on a tiny scale,” mostly “out of a hope that this would somehow save their lives or the lives of others,” Daniels, who enjoys friendly relations with Morawiecki, wrote in a statement. “The vast majority of the tens of thousands of Polish collaborators did so either out of greed or pure hate. The huge difference between Polish collaborators and Jewish ones is the reason that equating them is most definitely Holocaust denial.”