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June 29, 2021 12:34 pm
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Despite Presence of ‘Large and Influential’ American Jewish Community, US-Poland Relations Remain Solid, Deputy Foreign Minister Claims

avatar by Ben Cohen

Participants attend the annual “March of the Living” to commemorate the Holocaust at the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, in Brzezinka near Oswiecim, Poland, May 2, 2019. Reuters/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

Poland’s deputy foreign minister has expressed confidence in his country’s bilateral relationship with the United States despite the potentially disruptive presence in America of a “large and influential” Jewish community.

In an interview on Tuesday with broadcaster Polsat, Marcin Przydacz was asked whether Poland’s bitter dispute with Israel and Jewish organizations over a new law that closes off Jewish restitution claims related to Nazi-era persecution would impact Warsaw’s relationship with the US government.

“The subject of the Jewish question is very important to the US Department of State,” the deputy foreign minister remarked. “This is the case no matter if it’s Barack Obama, Donald Trump or Joe Biden in charge.”

Przydacz continued: “The Jewish diaspora there is large and influential.”

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Under seven million Jews live in the US, constituting approximately two percent of the total population.

Przydacz said that while “Jewish issues are important in the US agenda, our relations, in the context of security, are permanent; they have foundations.”

As part of the US and NATO commitment to securing Poland’s border with Russia, 4,500 US troops are based there. The two countries signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in 2020 and the US is currently building a facility in Poland to support NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defense mission.

Przydacz said that the Polish government would reassure the US government that “we preserve the memory of the Holocaust.”

“We will explain what our actions are all about,” he said, referring to the new law.

Pressed as to what this explanation would involve, Przydacz said the government would “present our sensitivities.”

He went to claim that “the Jewish population were our former ‘confrères,’ often they also had Polish citizenship,” before asserting that “all the responsibility and blame is borne by the aggressor state” — a reference to Germany.

Last week, Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Marowiecki, pledged that “Poland will certainly not pay for German crimes: Neither zloty, nor euro, nor dollar.”

The government’s robust defense of its position has been accompanied by an ongoing wave of antisemitic invective from some leading Polish politicians.

On Monday, Prof. Ryszard Legutko — a conservative Catholic academic who represents the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party in the European Parliament — gave an interview to a leading media outlet that claimed the efforts of Holocaust survivors for restitution were driven by financial greed and anti-Polish sentiment.

“It is definitely about money, that is obvious,” Legutko told the news outlet wPolityce. “For the property of Polish citizens of Jewish origin who died in the Holocaust, for the seizure of this property, compensation for that property, but also for venting these anti-Polish phobias, which are very strong in some Jewish communities.”

Legutko then suggested that Germany was a more natural target for the ire of the Jewish community than Poland.

“While the aversion to Germany and the Germans has somehow been suppressed or is not revealed so strongly, the aversion to Poles is extremely strong in this part of the environment,” he opined.

A separate panel discussion hosted by the broadcaster Radio Szczecin delved further into the semantics of the dispute, asking why “Germany is disappearing from Israel’s narrative, and why ‘Nazis’ appear instead?”

The same broadcast featured an exchange on the “border between commemorating the Holocaust and its instrumental use,” echoing a common complaint among Polish nationalists that Jews have manipulated the Holocaust to press for financial compensation.

Among those participating in the discussion was Rafał Ziemkiewicz, a far-right pundit who last week warned that “a major confrontation with international Jewry is coming” on live television. Also appearing were Leszek Dobrzyński, an MP from the governing PiS Party, and Prof. Arkadiusz Jabłoński of the Catholic University of Lublin.

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