Poland bristles at US envoy pick blaming anti-Semitism on Holocaust law

Polish deputy PM says he told US diplomat comment by Georgette Mosbacher ‘unacceptable’

Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland Bartosz Cichocki, speaks during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, March 1, 2018. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland Bartosz Cichocki, speaks during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, March 1, 2018. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP

WARSAW, Poland — The Polish government has called “unacceptable” a remark made by a nominee for the next US ambassador to Poland.

Georgette Mosbacher, a businesswoman nominated by US President Donald Trump, attributed the rise of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe to a law passed in Poland earlier this year that criminalizes blaming Poland for the Holocaust crimes of Nazi Germany on its soil.

The law angered Israel, which then triggered a wave of anti-Semitic rhetoric in Poland.

Mosbacher made the comment Tuesday during a nomination hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki said Poland does not accept the accusation that problems of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe result from decisions taken in Poland.

Georgette Mosbacher arrives for Atlantic Magazine’s 150th Anniversary celebration in New York on November 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Rick Maiman)

Cichocki said he conveyed that message to Wess Mitchell, the top US diplomat to Europe, on Wednesday.

Israeli officials railed against the Polish law, which outlaws blaming the Polish nation for being complicit in Nazi German crimes, as a distortion of history. The measure led to a major diplomatic rift when the Polish parliament first green lighted the legislation in January.

As currently written, the law calls for prison terms of up to three years for attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or nation. The bill would also set fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish.

Though passed by the parliament in Warsaw and signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda, the law is still undergoing an investigation by a top court to check if it complies with the country’s constitution. The verdict may take months to come.

People from all over the world participating in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 24, 2017. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The US, along with Israel and other countries, opposes the law over fears it could violate free speech and whitewashes history.

One key paragraph of the law states, “Whoever claims, publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich… or for other felonies that constitute crimes against peace, crimes against humanity or war crimes, or whoever otherwise grossly diminishes the responsibility of the true perpetrators of said crimes – shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.”

Critics of the law include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called it “baseless.” Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, warned it is detrimental to debate and research of the genocide.

Israeli politicians, including opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid, said it whitewashes Polish complicity in the Holocaust – allegations many Poles find offensive and the Polish government rejects.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed