By Stefan J. Bos
The head of the Polish Prime Minister`s Office confirmed that Mateusz Morawiecki would not attend the Visegrad Group meeting in Israel to protest against remarks made by Israeli leaders. The official, Michal Dworczyk, noted that "In recent days there have been several false accusations against the Polish state and the Polish nation."
He added that these "statements were partially denied, and there was an apology issued for some of them. But these led to further false accusations against the actions of Poles during the Second World War which neither the Polish state nor the Polish nation accepts."
Prime Minister Morawiecki, he said, " is very sensitive to the false accusations against Poland and Poles and hence the decision that is being taken."
He referred to comments by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who said last week that during World War Two “Poles cooperated with the Nazis.”
Netanyahu’s office said he was initially misquoted as saying "The Poles" which would suggest the whole Polish nation was wrong.
The Polish government first summoned the Israeli ambassador on Friday but said it was not satisfied with the explanation of the Israeli leader being misquoted.
Adding to the tensions were remarks Sunday by Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz, who told Israeli television that Poles “sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”
"I am the son of Holocaust survivors," he said, in his first day in the new job. "The memory of the Holocaust is not something to compromise about. It is obvious. We will not forget, and we will not forgive."
He then pledged to ensure that no one would change the historical truth of what happened. "Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely. Collaborated with the Nazis. As (former Israeli Prime Minister) Yitzhak Shamir said — his father was murdered by Poles — he said that from his point of view they sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk. You can't sugarcoat this history," the minister explained.
The Polish government's outrage over these remarks was backed by Jewish leaders in Poland. They said Monday they are offended by the words of Israel’s acting foreign minister. In a statement, they noted that accusing all Poles of anti-Semitism slighted thousands of Poles honored by Israel’s Holocaust memorial center, Yad Vashem, for helping Jews during the Holocaust.
Poland was one of the first countries invaded and occupied by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime and never had a collaborating government.
Members of Poland’s resistance and government-in-exile struggled to warn the world about the mass killing of Jews, and thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews.
However, Holocaust researchers have also collected evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis, or Polish blackmailers who preyed on the Jews for financial gain.
Israel's prime minister was still expected to hold bilateral meetings with the other three members of the Visegrad Group who include the leaders of Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.