Trump becomes first modern US president not to visit Warsaw Ghetto

Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, spoke of his 'deep regret' over the decision


On his first state visit to Poland, Donald Trump became the first US president since the fall of Communism not to visit the site of the Warsaw Ghetto.

This decision provoked a strong reaction from Poland’s Jewish community. A statement signed by community leaders and Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, read: “We deeply regret that President Donald Trump, though speaking in public barely a mile away from the monument, chose to break with that laudable tradition. We trust that this slight does not reflect the attitudes and feelings of the American people.”

Standing by the monument to the 1944 Warsaw uprising on Thursday, Mr Trump referenced the horrors experienced by Poland’s Jews during the 20th century: “A vibrant Jewish population - the largest in Europe - was reduced to almost nothing after the Nazis systematically murdered millions of Poland’s Jewish citizens, along with countless others, during that brutal occupation.”

The Holocaust remains a thorny subject in Poland where the relationship between ethnic Poles and Jews – and their memoires of the war - remain complex. More than three million Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation – and not all at the hands of the Germans.

Neighbours, a book by Polish-Jewish historian Jan T Gross, shocked the nation with the revelation that in 1941, between 340 and 1,500 Jews were murdered by their Polish neighbours in the town of Jedwabne.

The Poles also suffered greatly and were displaced, exiled and murdered. In all, at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians were killed. The Communist period, which lasted from 1945 to 1989, also took its toll and the country has only recently been able to start to process its difficult history.

But earlier this year, the Polish government, led by the right-wing Law and Justice Party, planned a legal amendment that threatened to prosecute anyone who accuses Poles or the Polish nation of participating — even partly — in the crimes committed by Germans in occupied Poland during the Holocaust.

Although Mr Trump did not visit the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, his daughter Ivanka Trump — a convert to Judaism — visited on Thursday afternoon to lay a wreath. She called it a “deeply moving experience”.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive