Poland PM's remarks not 'intended to deny the Holocaust,' office says

Angela Merkel right and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki listen to the national anthems during a welcoming ceremony prior to a meeting in the chancellery in Berlin Germany Friday Feb. 16 2018. (AP

Swastikas and profanities were daubed on the entrance to Poland's embassy in Israel on Sunday after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Jews, as well as Poles and others, were among perpetrators of the Nazi Holocaust.

Poland sparked worldwide criticism over its stance on the facts of the Holocaust when it passed a law imposing jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the deaths of millions of Jews during the war.

He was responding to an Israeli journalist who asked if anyone who said there were Polish collaborators in the Holocaust would be considered a criminal in Poland under the new law.

Polish authorities say they just want to protect Poland from being depicted as a collaborator of the Nazis when the country was Adolf Hitler's first victim and suffered through almost six years of war and occupation. Bergman posed the question whether telling this story publicly made him a criminal in Poland. "What is the objective, what is the message that you want to convey to the world?" he asked, garnering a round of applause.

Poland's government said Morawiecki's comments were not meant to deny the Holocaust or allege that Jewish victims bore responsibility for "Nazi German-perpetrated genocide".

Morawiecki's comments were met with fierce backlash in Israel, with some politicians accusing Morawiecki of anti-Semitism, setting off a new chapter in an angry dispute over Poland's Holocaust complicity legislation. "There is a problem here of an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people".

Late on Saturday night the Polish government released a statement.

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A Morawiecki spokesman said the prime minister was in no way trying to deny the Holocaust.

Poland has long objected to phrases such as "Polish death camps", which it argues suggest the state shared some responsibility for them - a complaint repeated by Morawiecki on Saturday.

However, the spokeswoman for Morawiecki's ruling Law & Justice party said in a separate Twitter post that Morawiecki "said the truth that is hard to accept by the Israeli side" and there's no need to apologize for the truth.

The US state department had also urged the Polish government to rethink its new law.

"The idea of comparing the victims and those that [murdered] them during the Holocaust, and during the period of the Second World War, is unacceptable", the opposition leader said.

Poland sparked worldwide criticism over its stance on the facts of the Holocaust when it passed a law imposing jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the deaths of millions of Jews during the war. "There were German Nazi death camps". There were also Poles who risked their lives to save Jewish neighbors.

"Her grandfather and two relatives were hidden by the Poles", Netanyahu said, referring to non-Jewish resistance to Nazi antisemitic policies.

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