Polish president and PM said unwelcome at White House over Holocaust law

Warsaw’s deputy FM dismisses report saying Trump administration boycotting top Polish officials over controversial legislation

US President Donald Trump, left, is greeted by Polish President Andrzej Duda after arriving at the Royal Castle, Thursday, July 6, 2017, in Warsaw. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump, left, is greeted by Polish President Andrzej Duda after arriving at the Royal Castle, Thursday, July 6, 2017, in Warsaw. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A leading news site in Poland on Monday said it had obtained documents indicating the country’s highest officials were not welcome at the White House over a law limiting discourse on World War II.

The documents, which the news site Onet did not describe in its March 5 report, show that President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will not be received by US President Donald Trump or any other member of his administration, the report said.

Staff from the US Embassy in Warsaw also threatened to suspend funding for joint military projects between the United States and Poland, according to Onet.

The report was denied on Tuesday by Polish government officials.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki said that Washington was expressing “concerns and questions” about the law but that reports of the measures were untrue.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum that documents the fate of the Polish Ulma family, killed in March 1944 by Nazi Germans for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust, in the village of Markowa, southeastern Poland, on January 2, 2018 (AFP/Janek Skarzynski)

Government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska stressed that diplomatic channels remain open, noting that other government officials have visited Washington recently and will do so in the near future.

“Bilateral strategic cooperation with the United States is not threatened, diplomatic contacts remain at the current level,” Kopcinska said.

The reported crisis in US-Polish relations is over the passing last month of a Polish law that criminalizes blaming Poland for Nazi crimes during the Holocaust. Poland was occupied in 1939 by Nazi Germany, which built some of its most notorious death camps, including Auschwitz, on Polish soil.

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

“If it’s true that Americans have introduced sanctions against Poland, then the matter is serious. It could hurt Poland’s security,” Stanislaw Tyszka, a deputy speaker of the parliament from a small right-wing party, Kuziz ’15, said Tuesday.

The US Embassy in Poland last month warned that it was “concerned about the repercussions” for bilateral relations after the Polish Senate passed the legislation.

Later that month, Morawiecki during an interview made a remark suggesting there were “Jewish perpetrators” of the Holocaust, along with Polish, Ukrainian and German ones.

Decried as a form of Holocaust denial or revisionism in Poland and abroad, his remark prompted an unusually harsh reaction from Netanyahu, who called Morawiecki’s assertion “outrageous.”

Jonny Daniels, the founder of the From the Depths commemoration group in Poland, called the reported ban by the White House “a very strong response.” He suggested that US-Polish relations would improve following the conclusion of ongoing talks between Israel and Poland on ending the crisis over the law.

“I am sure that with the talks and good will between the Polish and Israeli government to resolve this issue, business will return to normal soon,” he said.

The Holocaust complicity legislation, which is still awaiting judicial review in Poland, went into effect on Thursday.

Led by the Polish deputy foreign minister, a high-level delegation from Warsaw was in Israel last week to discuss possible amendments to the law.

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.

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.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: