Polish PM pays respects to Nazi collaborators underground group
Photo posted on Morawiecki's Twitter shows him paying his respects to the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade, which collaborated with the Wehrmacht near the end of WWII; spokesman for Polish opposition party: underground force contributed to tarnishing Poland’s international image.
Morawiecki visited the memorial site in Munich before making his controversial remarks to Yedioth Ahronoth journalist Ronen Bergman.
The Polish prime minister’s office uploaded the picture on Twitter, saying he had lit a candle and lay a wreath at the memorial for the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade, which was comprised of far-right activists who refused to merge with the Home Army and dedicated their underground efforts to fighting communists both in Poland and Germany.
After originally fighting against the Germans, the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade changed tactics toward the end of the war by collaborating with the Wehrmacht, hoping to forge an alliance that would stave off the imminent Soviet takeover of the country.
The “Never Again” anti-racist group in Poland voiced scathing criticism of the visit while Jan Grabiec, spokesman for Poland’s main opposition party Civic Platform, joined the protests of the visit, adding the underground force contributed to tarnishing Poland’s international image.
Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, also condemned the visit and demanded that Morawiecki apologize.
Lauder slammed Morawiecki’s “absurd and unconscionable” accusations, calling on him to officially repudiate his seeming support for the extremist group.
"The Polish prime minister has displayed appalling ignorance with his unconscionable claim that so-called ‘Jewish perpetrators’ were partly responsible for the Nazi German attempt to wipe out European Jewry,” Lauder said. “While Poles are understandably sensitive about Nazi German extermination and concentration camps in occupied Poland being called Polish, this government is going to extreme and unfathomable lengths to exonerate some of their countrymen’s own complicity in the murders of their neighbors.”
“This is nothing short of an attempt to falsify history, that is one of the very worst forms of anti-Semitism and Holocaust obfuscation,” Lauder said. “We demand an immediate retraction and apology from the Polish government of these absurd and offensive remarks. It is time for all European governments, including that of Poland, to own up to the role of their societies in abetting the Nazis and contributing to the near destruction of the Jewish people. Including Jews among the perpetrators of these horrors, and blaming the victims instead of the killers is a travesty that will only draw us further back to some of the darkest moments in human history.”
Meanwhile, anger over Morawiecki's comments on “Jewish perpetrators” continued reverberating. The head of the From the Depths organization Jonny Daniels, who has close ties to the Polish prime minister, slammed Morawiecki’s words on social media.
Others, however, welcomed Morawiecki’s visit on Twitter, hailing members of the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade as “national heroes.”
“Holocaust denial is not only the denial of the fact that the Holocaust took place, but it is also connected to the invention of facts that fit us and our narrative. Holocaust denial is to call the Nazi death camps ‘Polish.’ It is also (Holocaust denial) to compare Polish and Jewish collaborators,” he wrote.
“We need to be clear and honest. There were Jews who collaborated with the Nazis on a small scale. The majority of them did so in the hope that it would somehow save their lives or the lives of others. The vast majority of thousands of Polish collaborators did it out of pure greed or hatred. The crucial difference between Polish and Jewish collaborators is the reason why equating them is absolutely Holocaust denial,” Daniels asserted.
“There were good and there were bad," he continued. "During the last few years, my fund has focused on stories of known and unknown heroes who risked their lives, the lives of their families and sometimes of their villages in order to save their Jewish neighbors. I still believe that we have achieved a lot by focusing on these wonderful people rather than on evil.”
But while “there was a lot of evil that cannot be denied during these difficult times, one thing does not negate the other. Without openness and the truth, we are denying the memory of six millions Jews, three million Poles and others," Daniels stressed.
He urged "to unite behind the truth and not to push our own narrative."
"For many years, relations between Poles and Jews sometimes ignored the giant elephant in the room. It’s clear that the dialogue didn’t begin in the best way, but now it's here and its open, we need to speak in order to build a better future for all of us,” Daniels said.