Poland’s prime minister has cancelled plans for his country to send a delegation to a meeting in Jerusalem after the acting Israeli foreign minister said Poles “collaborated with the Nazis” and “sucked antisemitism from their mothers’ milk”.
The developments mark a new low in a bitter conflict over how to remember and characterise Polish actions towards Jews during the German occupation of Poland in the Second World War.
Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki had already announced on Sunday that he was pulling out of the meeting in Israel with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of four central European nations following a comment by Mr Netanyahu last week.
Foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz had been chosen to attend the meeting on Monday and Tuesday in his place.
But Mr Morawiecki said he was cancelling the Polish participation altogether because he considered acting foreign minister Israel Katz’s comments “racist” and “absolutely unacceptable”.
The Foreign Ministry also summoned the Israeli ambassador Anna Azari to demand a second set of clarifications in recent days.
Monday’s development marks a deterioration of a spat that began last Thursday when Mr Netanyahu said: “Poles co-operated with the Nazis.”
Mr Netanyahu’s office said he was misquoted.
The Polish government first summoned the Israeli ambassador on Friday but said it was not satisfied with the explanation of the Israeli leader being quoted incorrectly.
Mr Katz made his remarks on Sunday in an interview on Reshet 13 TV.
“I am the son of Holocaust survivors,” he said, in his first day in the job.
“The memory of the Holocaust is not something to compromise about. It is obvious. We will not forget, and we will not forgive.”
He then vowed that no-one would change the historical truth of what happened.
“Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely. Collaborated with the Nazis. As (former Israeli prime minister) Yitzhak Shamir said – his father was murdered by Poles – he said that from his point of view they sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk. You can’t sugarcoat this history,” he said.
Poland was the first occupation of Adolf Hitler’s regime and never had a collaborationist government.
Members of Poland’s resistance and government-in-exile struggled to warn the world about the mass killing of Jews, and thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews.
However, Holocaust researchers have collected evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis, and Polish blackmailers who preyed on the Jews for financial gain.
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