Poland Summons US Ambassador Over Holocaust Remarks

April 19, 2015  

Poland said Sunday it has demanded a formal apology from the United States after the head of the FBI claimed Poland shares responsibility for the Holocaust with Germany.

US Ambassador Stephen Mull will “receive a note of protest and a summons for an apology” over the comments by FBI director James Comey, foreign ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski wrote on Twitter.

Comey’s April 16 opinion piece in the Washington Post has sparked outrage among Polish politicians and media who see his comments as wrongly stating that Poland played a role in Nazi Germany’s genocide of six million European Jews in the Holocaust.

“In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil,” Comey wrote.

Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski told public television that Comey’s comments showed a “lack of historical knowledge” and was an “insult to thousands of Poles who helped Jews”.

Mull was quick to present an informal apology at memorial ceremonies in the Polish capital on Sunday marking the 72nd anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

“Any suggestion that Poland, or any other countries other than Nazi Germany, bear responsibility for the Holocaust, is a mistake, harmful and insulting,” Mull told reporters.

Six million Polish citizens were killed under Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland during World War II. While half of the victims were Jewish, the other half were Christian.

Historical records show instances of Poles turning against their Jewish neighbors, either killing them or giving them up to the Nazis. Poles also risked their lives and families to save Jews.

In 2012, US President Barack Obama caused outrage in Warsaw when he labelled a World War II Nazi German facility in occupied Poland used to process Jews for extermination a “Polish death camp”.

He subsequently expressed “regret” at what he called his inadvertent use of the erroneous term “Polish death camp.”

Poland’s government keenly watches the global media for descriptions of former Nazi German death camps as “Polish” because it says the term – even if used simply as a geographical indicator – can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust.

AFP contributed to this report

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