A Polish TV host has suggested that World War II death camps in Poland be referred to as “Jewish death camps” instead of Polish or German, while a journalist intimated on his program that Jews played a part in the Nazi Final Solution.
The comments have fanned the flames that have already mildly burned relations between Warsaw and Jerusalem after the Polish parliament recently moved to pass legislation that Israel has argued is an attempt to downplay Poland’s role in Nazi atrocities.
The guest of the program aired by TVP2 also slammed Israel for its vociferous opposition to the bill, which prescribes prison time for defaming the Polish nation by using phrases such as “Polish death camps” to refer to the Polish death camps the Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.
“This narrative is built out of contempt for the facts,” argued Marcin Jerzy Wolski who hosts the Polish public mainstream TV channel operated by TVP.
Discussing an experiment carried out in Germany in which exhaust fumes were pumped into rooms containing monkeys and humans, Wloski and the conservative commentator and author Rafal Aleksander Ziemkiewicz digressed into a conversation about Jews in the Holocaust, gas chambers and how the Nazis improvised as they searched for more efficient methods to murder European Jewry.
The two then segued into an attack of Israeli criticism against the new bill and what they called “claims” –the fact that Poles participated in the Holocaust. Ziemkiewicz also slammed the notion of blaming nations for the actions of individuals.
“Don’t be surprised if someone teaches that the Jewish people crucified Jesus or participated in the Holocaust,” he said. “If we look at the percentage of involvement of countries that took part, Jews also were part of their own destruction.”
Wolski responded by saying: “Using this terminology, linguistically, we could say these were not German or Polish camps, but were Jewish camps. After all, who dealt with the crematoria?”
Taking the theory further, Ziemkiewicz asked: “And who died in them? Jews. History has been forgotten. Instead of history there is a narrative that serves political and other interests. This narrative is built out of contempt for facts.”
A few hours before the program, Ziemkiewicz published on Twitter an anti-Semitic post before deleting it shortly after.
“For many years I have convinced my people that we must support Israel. Today, because of a few scabby or greedy people, I feel like an idiot,” he wrote in his tweet, evoking a term often used in anti-Semitic slurs in Poland.
During and after the Holocaust, Poles frequently referred to Jews as “scabby” as a derogatory expression.
A statement released by the Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern about the discussion.
“We are anxiously following the statements of an anti-Semitic nature made on Polish media and are considering discussing the subject with the embassy in Warsaw,” the statement read.
The interview was not the only public expression in the Polish media against Israeli furor. One radio presenter suggested that Poles who support the Israeli positions should consider forfeiting their Polish citizenship.
“If there’s someone who behaves like a spokesperson for Israeli interests, maybe it’s worth it for him to consider giving up his Polish citizenship and getting Israeli citizenship,” Piotr Nisztor said in statements that were published on the radio station’s twitter account.
It is not only the Israeli political establishment that has expressed outrage over the Polish initiative, however.
An Israeli historian of Jewish-Israeli heritage who was awarded in 2012 the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic from the then Polish president for his contribution to promoting the memory—and increasing awareness of—the Polish Righteous Among the Nations, has returned his award in protest against the “demonic” legislation.
The Israeli education system will dedicate two lessons this week to teaching schoolchildren about the Holocaust, with an emphasis on the involvement of the different European nations and their collaboration with the Nazi Germans in the murder of Jews.
PM Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that Israel has “no tolerance for the distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
Yair Lapid, the chairman of the Yesh Atid party, is opposed to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to negotiate with the Polish prime minister on the “Polish Law.”
“There is no negotiating over the memory of those who perished. This law should simply be buried in the soil of Poland, which is saturated with the blood of Jews,” Lapid said.
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