WARSAW, Poland — An adviser to Poland’s president says he thinks Israel’s negative reaction to a law criminalizing some statements about Poland’s actions during World War II stemmed from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust.”
Andrzej Zybertowicz, a Nicolaus Copernicus University sociology professor who also serves as a presidential adviser, called Israel’s opposition to the new law “anti-Polish” and said it shows the Mideast nation is “clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust.”
“Many Jews engaged in denunciation, collaboration during the war. I think Israel has still not worked it through,” Zybertowicz said in the interview in the Polska-The Times newspaper Friday.
Zybertowicz could not immediately be reached for comment but tweeted a link to the article.
His remarks follow open expressions of anti-Semitism that surfaced online and in some government-controlled media when Israeli officials objected to the law, which outlaws public statements that falsely and intentionally attribute Nazi crimes to Poland under the German occupation.
The ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, appeared to acknowledge the recent outburst of anti-Jewish rhetoric in the country, denouncing anti-Semitism in a speech Saturday night as a “serious illness of the soul” and an “illness of the mind” that must be rejected. At the same time, he said Poland does not have to agree with “either Jews or Poles,” who want to “offend” Poland.
Jews have sometimes been described, often derisively, as having remained passive during the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. Key acts of resistance contradict that, most notably the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Smaller revolts took place in the death camps, including Sobibor and Treblinka, where starving prisoners without weapons faced heavily armed German guards.
In Israel, some fear the Polish speech law will allow the Polish government to whitewash the role some individual Poles had in the deaths of Jews. The law allows for prison terms of up to three years.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and other government officials said it was needed because Poles sometimes are depicted as collaborators or complicit in the Nazi genocide.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that she won’t get involved or interfere with Poland’s law because “as Germans, we are responsible for the things that happened during the Holocaust.” Merkel said in her weekly podcast that the onus on Germany from the Holocaust is something every German government will have to address.
Duda signed the law on Tuesday but also asked the country’s constitutional court to review it.
Poland’s government went into exile abroad when German forces took over, while an underground army at home resisted the Nazis. After Jews, ethnic Poles made up the largest group of victims at the Nazi-run camps. There were, however, cases of Poles who identified Jews to the Germans or killed them directly.
This story has been corrected to say that Jews, not ethnic Poles, made up the largest group in the Nazi death camps.