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Polish PM faces criticism for claiming there were “Jewish perpetrators” of Holocaust when defending controversial Holocaust law

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has attracted ire from commentators around the globe for his claim that there were “Jewish perpetrators” of the Holocaust yesterday.

Morawiecki, of Poland’s ruling far-right Law and Justice party, a growing number of senior members of which have now made antisemitic comments, was fielding questions at the Munich Security Conference.

Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist, described how his mother’s family escaped from the Nazis after overhearing Polish neighbours discussing how they would report the family’s whereabouts to the Nazis. Bergman continued “If I understand correctly, after this law is legislated, I will be considered a criminal in your country for saying this”.

Morawiecki claimed, somewhat disingenuously, that claims of Polish perpetration would not be punished, saying that he acknowledged “as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian perpetrators – not only German perpetrators”.

Claiming that there were “Jewish perpetrators” of the Holocaust, particularly claiming so alongside German perpetrators, is an outrageous attempt to downplay the fact that the Holocaust was an attempt to exterminate the entirety of the European Jewry. Whilst some Jews were involved in administering the ghettos, their position is one of academic controversy, and many acted out of a sense of necessity, often not knowing the extent of the Nazi’s plans. Invoking this to defend a law which has serious implications for study and debate about the Holocaust is unconscionable, particularly from the leader of a blatantly antisemitic party that is yet to discipline scores of members who have openly voiced antisemitic ideas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described his statement as “outrageous” saying that “there is a problem here of a misunderstanding of history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people. I plan to talk to him soon”.

Avi Gabbay, the chairman of the Zionist Union, accused Morawiecki of speaking in the same terms of a Holocaust denier, saying that “the blood of millions of Jews cries out from Polish soil about the distortion of history and the escape from guilt. Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and Poles took an active part in their murder. The government of Israel must be the voice of the millions of those murdered and strongly condemn the words of the Polish prime minister.”