Israel-Poland tensions rise further after Prime Minister describes potential restitution for Jews as 'a victory for Hitler'

A further incident on Friday saw a far-right political candidate put a kippah in front of another politician, accusing her of 'kneeling before the Jews'


The Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has called the idea of Poland compensating Jews for property  taken from them during the Second World War “a terrible injustice” and a “posthumous victory for Hitler”.

Speaking at a rally in the Polish city of Lodz on Friday, Mr Morawiecki said that as long as his Law and Justice party was in power, such compensation would never happen.

“If someone says that Poland is to pay any compensation to anyone, we say: we do not agree to it,” he told the crowd. Later, while in the city of Krakow, he said: “Today, there are those in the world who have the nerve to ask compensation from Poland for German crimes. There is no agreement for such compensation and such behaviour.”

The last couple of years have seen renewed tension between Israel and Poland over the degree of culpability which Poland has in the events of the Holocaust.

The Polish government maintains that the Polish people were fellow victims of the Nazis, and that blaming them in any way for the Holocaust is extremely insulting.

By contrast, many Jewish survivors have spoken of Poles acting as willing accomplices to the Nazis and subsequently stealing the homes and property of the Jews who had been deported to ghettoes and death camps (although there were hundreds of Poles who risked their lives to protect Jewish friends and neighbours).

When Jewish survivors returned to their former villages and towns after the war to try and reclaim their property, some of them were murdered. The Kielce Pogrom in 1946, for example, saw Polish soldiers, police officers and civilians kill scores of Jews.

That was not the only highly controversial incident to take place in Poland on Friday. During a debate in the city of Kielce, Dawid Lewicki, a candidate for the far-right Confederation political alliance, put a kippah in front of Anne Krupka, a Law and Justice politician and said, “This is the symbol of Law and Justice. They kneel before the Jews, they sell the country for $300 billion.”

Ms Krupka threw the kippah off the table, but subsequently, while she spoke, another member of the Confederation picked it up and held it above her head.

Last year the Polish government was embroiled in a controversy over attempts to criminalise suggestions of Polish complicity in the Holocaust, including referring to the Nazi death camps on Polish soil as “Polish death camps”. After an international outcry, the law was re-written.

However, the controversy has continued to simmer. In February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated during a speech in Warsaw that “Poles collaborated with the Nazis”.

Prime Minister Morawiecki called Mr Netanyahu’s comment’s “surprising”, emphasising that there was “no Polish regime” during the Nazi occupation – unlike other countries the Nazis occupied where they would set up local puppet governments.

A planned visit by an Israeli delegation to Poland this month was cancelled, and last week, Poland’s ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, was spat at in the street by a man who said his family had suffered from the Holocaust in Poland, and who had been protesting outside the embassy over the issue of restitution.

Prime Minister Morawiecki described the incident as a “xenophobic act of aggression”, and Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, was summoned to Poland’s foreign ministry in protest.

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