WARSAW, Poland — An adviser to Poland’s president has said that Israel’s reaction to a law criminalizing some statements about Poland’s actions during World War II stems from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust.”
Andrzej Zybertowicz made the remark in an interview published Friday in the Polska-The Times newspaper. Zybertowicz tweeted a link to the article on Friday.
The bill prohibiting blaming the Polish nation for Holocaust crimes was signed into law Tuesday by President Andrzej Duda but has yet to receive final approval from the country’s Constitutional Court.
The law has sparked anger in Israel, where Holocaust survivors and others with roots in Poland fear it will allow the government to whitewash the role some Poles had in killing Jews during WWII.
Israeli opposition to the law has sparked anti-Semitic statements from officials and others in Poland, with some accusing Jews of speaking out against the bill for monetary gain.
On Wednesday, a small group of far-right advocates demonstrated in front of the presidential palace demanding that he okay the bill. The demonstrators held a banner reading “Take off your yarmulke. Sign the bill.”
Beata Mazurek, the spokeswoman for the conservative Law and Justice and a deputy parliament speaker, this week tweeted a quote by a Catholic priest who had said that the Israeli ambassador’s criticism of the bill “made it hard for me to look at Jews with sympathy and kindness.”
Many of Poland’s conservative lawmakers and commentators are now accusing Israelis and American Jews of using the issue as a pretext for getting money from Poland for prewar Jewish property seized in the communist era.
Jerzy Czerwinski, a senator with the ruling party, said on state radio Monday that he saw a “hidden agenda” in the opposition.
“After all, we know that Jewish circles, including American, but mostly the state of Israel, are trying to get restitution of property or at least compensation,” he said.
Last week, Israel’s embassy in Warsaw denounced what it said was a “wave of anti-Semitic statements” sweeping across Poland, many of them directed at the Israeli ambassador, Anna Azari.
In one instance last week, the head of a state-run channel suggested referring to Auschwitz as a “Jewish death camp,” in response to an outcry over use of the term “Polish death camp” to describe the Nazi killing site in German-occupied Poland.
As currently written, the legislation 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 bill 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.”