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Netanyahu rebukes Poland PM over 'Jewish perpetrators' jibe

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki came under fire for a remark saying the Holocaust had involved "Jewish perpetrators" as well as Polish ones.
Thomas KIENZLE (AFP)
PM tells i24NEWS "Jewish collaborators were "slaves under threat of execution" in press briefing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rebuked Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for equating Jewish and Polish "perpetrators" during the Holocaust as a diplomat spat between the two countries intensifies.

Morawiecki on Saturday told the Munich Security Conference that there were Polish perpetrators "just as there were Jewish perpetrators" in Nazi-occupied Poland as he defended his government's legislation curtailing the freedom to discuss Polish collaboration with Nazi crimes.

Netanyahu told Israeli journalists on Sunday that had a half an hour conversation with his Polish counterpart in which he insisted there is "no basis for comparing Polish and Jewish actions during Holocaust."

Netanyahu said that "Jewish collaborators" were acting as "slaves under the threat of being executed", unlike Polish collaborators who acted willingly.

He also recounted a tragic episode related to his wife Sarah's grandfather and two other relatives who were initially hidden by Polish neighbors who then became "righteous among the nations," but were killed by the Nazis when other Poles spied on them.

Israel Police

Speaking of an Israeli response to the law, Netanyahu said all options are on the table. However, he added he prefers trying all diplomatic channels before resorting to the extreme measure of withdrawing the ambassador from Poland.

Asked whether he feared other countries could follow Poland in attempting to erase their responsibilities in the Holocaust, Netanyahu replied that no, quoting a positive conversation he had with Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Earlier, Poland sought to defend the remarks by its prime minister, which Netanyahu had already called "outrageous" and amounted to denying the Holocaust.

"The comments of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during a discussion in Munich were by no means intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide," Morawiecki's spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said in a statement.

Morawiecki's spokeswoman countered on Sunday that to the contrary the Polish prime minister "has repeatedly and categorically opposed denial of the Holocaust-the murder of European Jewry-as well as anti-Semitism in all its forms".

Morawiecki's claim about the Holocaust's perpetrators came amid an unprecedented diplomatic row with Israel sparked by a controversial law passed by Poland's senate this month.

Thomas KIENZLE (AFP)

The law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich".

On Saturday Morawiecki had been questioned by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, who told of his mother's narrow escape from the Gestapo in Poland after learning that neighbors were planning to denounce them, and asked if recounting that would now be against the law in Poland.

Morawiecki responded: "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 Ukraine and German perpetrators."

After a slew of negative reactions to the comments, the Polish PM's spokeswoman sought to clarify the remark saying 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."

"Each crime must be judged individually, and no single act of wickedness should burden with responsibility entire nations, which were conquered and enslaved by Nazi Germany," she said.

Also on Sunday, vandals daubed swastikas and offensive slogans on the entrance to Poland's embassy in Israel.

"Polish s***" and "Polish murderers go f*** yourselves" were sprayed on a noticeboard outside the mission in north Tel Aviv.

Police said they had opened an investigation.

i24NEWS Germany correspondent Polina Garaev contributed reporting from Munich, with AFP.

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Polish antisemitism is historical. Consider the source...!

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