Calling all Poles anti-semites offends us too: Poland’s chief rabbi

The offensive words of Israel’s FM Yisrael Katz describing Poles as people who “have suckled anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk” were also criticised by the American Jewish Committee.

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“Accusing all Poles of antisemitism offends the Righteous [among the Nations]... and it also offends us, Polish Jews, who are part of that society,” the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland wrote in its statement, signed by its head Monika Krawczyk and the Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich.

The statement recalled that Poles “constitute the largest group among the Righteous among the Nations,” that is to say, the people honoured for risking their lives saving Jews from the Holocaust.

The statement came as a response to the Israeli FM Yisrael Katz who quoted Israel’s former PM Icchak Shamir who used the offensive words in 1989. “The words… are even more unjust today, 30 years later, when so much has been done on both sides for a mutual understanding of our very difficult, but shared history,” reads the statement, adding that “we also remember that during the Nazi German occupation, Poland never established a collaboration regime with the 3rd Reich.

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1000 years of Jewish presence on Polish soil cannot be reduced to a single headline or sound bite: ACJ

The widely recognised and respected NGO focused on Jewish affairs, the American Jewish Committee has also published its own statement on the growing Polish-Israeli tensions. To read its full text, click here.

“1000 years of Jewish presence on Polish soil cannot be reduced to a single headline or sound bite,” reads the statement ”Like Jews, Poles have been targeted by their larger neighbours more than once, and there remains a deep-seated sense of vulnerability. Indeed, just as Israel disappeared from the world map for centuries, so did Poland for 123 years.”

The statement continues to emphasize Polish merit in fighting and opposing totalitarian regimes responsible for the death of millions of jews: “Poland was the first target of the German army, leading to the start of the Second World War. It experienced a brutal Nazi (and, subsequently, Soviet) occupation for nearly six years. While Auschwitz is understandably associated with the Holocaust, it was also the place of martyrdom of non-Jewish Poles, including many members of the Catholic clergy.”

“Its soldiers continued to fight in the Allied forces, including the brave pilots in the British air force. Its resistance in Poland was the staunchest and the most extensive in Europe. Unlike France or Norway, for example, there was not a Polish collaborationist regime during occupation.

And, notably, there are thousands of Poles recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their own lives to save Jewish lives. Names such as Irena Sendler and Jan Karski ought to be hallowed for Jews,” reads the statement and concludes: “As friends, we need to be able to manage our inevitable differences. That begins with choosing our words carefully.”