Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)

Poland tries to frame PM's Holocaust remarks as frank debate
Monika Scislowska (Associated Press) - February 19, 2018 - 12:00am

WARSAW — A spokeswoman for Poland's prime minister sought yesterday to downplay his words equating Polish collaborators in the Holocaust to alleged "Jewish perpetrators" by saying they were an invitation to a frank debate about the World War II crimes against Jews.

Israeli politicians have accused Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of anti-Semitism following his remarks Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, which set off a new chapter in an angry dispute over Poland's new law banning some Holocaust speech.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he planned to speak with Morawiecki soon about his remarks.

In a statement yesterday, Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, condemned Morawiecki's words as an "absurd and unconscionable" allegation that is "nothing short of an attempt to falsify history, that rings of the very worst forms of anti-Semitism and Holocaust obfuscation,"

Lauder demanded an "immediate retraction and apology" from Poland's government.

Morawiecki spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said that his words "should be interpreted as a sincere call for open discussion of crimes committed against Jews during the Holocaust, regardless of the nationality of those involved in each crime."

The statement in Polish and English said Morawiecki's comments were "by no means intended to deny the Holocaust."

"On the contrary, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has repeatedly and categorically opposed denial of the Holocaust — the murder of European Jewry — as well as anti-Semitism in all its forms," the statement said.

It noted that the brutal occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany during the war "allowed the Nazi German murder of Jews to take place in the way that it did."

Morawiecki made the controversial comment Saturday as he was responding to a question from an Israeli journalist at the Munich Security Conference. While asking about a new Polish law that criminalizes some statements about the Holocaust, the journalist said his parents were reported to the Nazis by Polish neighbors. He asked if he would now be considered a criminal in Poland for relating the story.

"Of course it's not going to be punishable, 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 said in response.

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