Polish Chief Rabbi: my views on Kaminski

By Jessica Elgot, October 30, 2009
The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich

The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich

The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, has reiterated that he does not believe controversial Polish MEP Michal Kaminski is antisemitic — but admitted he does have concerns over the politician’s past.

Mr Kaminski has been at the centre of the row over the Conservatives' new rightwing allies in the European parliament. He is the leader of the European parties' bloc.

He has been accused of antisemitism by the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who used Rabbi Schudrich’s comments to the New Statesman as a basis for his attack.

Speaking friom Warsaw on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Rabbi Schudrich said: “Mr Kaminski, as a teenager, was a member of a group, the National Rebirth of Poland, which was unfortunately antisemitic and neo-Nazi. He also quit that organisation, as a teenager.”

The New York-born chief rabbi was asked about Mr Kaminski’s opposition to a national apology for the massacre of Jews in the Polish town of Jedwabne in 1941.

He said: “In terms of the massacre at Jedwabne, I completely disagree with his stance, but we also have to take into consideration that he has become a great ally of the state of Israel and has condemned antisemitism.

“So what we have here is a complicated person and we have to understand him in context, not taking one thing he said, but taking a look at the things he has said over the past 20 years.

“This is not ignoring the fact that he was a member of NOP as a teenager, which is something I do not defend and I find problematic.

He added: “No-one here in Poland would consider Mr Kaminski’s [Law and Order] party a far-right party. I think we are playing into the false and painful stereotype that all Poles are antisemitic. This is something I would like to clearly state is a false stereotype.”

“I cannot check what a person really feels in his heart. But what I have heard from Mr Kaminski publicly and privately I certainly see him as a man who today – today - is against antisemitism.”

Speaking after Rabbi Schudrich’s interview, the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson said he believed that both parties were afraid of losing Jewish votes over the issue.

“There is a battle for certain voter groups. Clearly Jewish voters will be concerned about this issue. David Miliband will almost certainly not apologise but will use other Jewish leaders to support him. This is all about garnering support and the tactics are very dirty. "

Last updated: 11:17am, November 3 2009