20 Feb 2018

Polish PM deepens divide between Poles

During last week's Security Conference in Munich, a journalist asked Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki to justify the infamous Holocaust bill. The PM compounded the scandal by answering that Russians, Ukrainians and even Jews had also been "perpetrators".

Zuzanna Piechowicz
Zuzanna Piechowicz Tok FM, Poland
Source: Tok FM
Polish PM deepens divide between Poles
 - NewsMavens
Mateusz Morawiecki. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Once again it has become clear that Mateusz Morawiecki and the ruling party PiS (Law and Justice) have their own version of history. While Morawiecki was roundly condemned by the foreign press, Polish right-wing commentators spoke up in defense of their PM, often invoking anti-Semitic arguments while doing so.

As a Pole, I feel that this government does not represent us as a nation. Some of us are ashamed and care about acknowledging our role in the Holocaust. In response to Morawiecki's speech, the NieWMoimImieniu hashtag (NotInMyName) appeared on Twitter. People are posting it alongside statements like "I am sorry for the pogroms," "I want a Poland that's open and respectful", or, very simply, "I apologize".

media, politics

Details from the story:

  • The bill on the National Institute of Rememberance (IPN) penalizes implying ("untruthfully") that the Polish state or the Polish nation were complicit in the Nazi death machine.
  • Despite the meltdown it caused in the Polish-Israeli diplomatic relations, it was quickly accepted in parliament and signed by the president Andrzej Duda.
  • On February 17, 2018, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attended the Munich Security Conference.
  • “New York Times” journalist Ronen Bergman raised the topic of the bill, revealing that many members of the his family were killed during World War II because Poles reported them to the Nazis. He then asked the PM what was the purpose of the bill and if he would be considered a criminal in Poland for telling his story.
  • Morawiecki replied: "It is extremely important to understand that, of course, it will not be punished, it will not be treated as criminal activity, if someone says that there were Polish perpetrators". Sadly, instead of stopping right there, he continued: "Just like there were Jewish perpetrators, Russian perpetrators or Ukrainian -- not only German."
  • He then went on to explain that the bill is targeted at the phrase "Polish death camps" and described the circumstances of the German occupation in Poland.
  • He also reminded the audience that many more Poles helped their "Jewish brothers and sisters" than turned them in. However, the phrase "Jewish perpetrators" was enough for the majority of international media to describe the whole statement as inappropriate.
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