Monday , March 27 2023
Polish official fired after calling Holocaust law ‘stupid’

Polish official fired after calling Holocaust law ‘stupid’

Diplomat for Jewish diaspora sacked for taking aim at Warsaw’s attempts to distance Poland from from WWII-era crimes against humanity.

A Polish diplomat charged with improving contacts with Jews worldwide has been fired after he criticised his own government’s approach to regulating Holocaust speech, the country’s foreign ministry said on Monday.

Jaroslaw Nowak, the plenipotentiary for contacts with the Jewish diaspora described a Holocaust speech law passed by his country’s governing party as “stupid,” in an interview last week with Jewish News, a weekly newspaper published in the United Kingdom.

Nowak also said Poland should pass a law on property restitution, a statement implying further criticism of the ruling authorities, who recently passed a law cutting off the chances for restitution or compensation for those who had properties seized by the communists. Among those affected are Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau fired Nowak on Saturday, the ministry spokesman, Lukasz Jasina, announced on Monday on Twitter. He did not give a reason.

The development came days after Poland recalled its new ambassador to Prague after that diplomat criticised his own country in an interview – in that case, in relation to Poland’s approach to a dispute with the Czech Republic over a state-run coal mine.

Ambassador Miroslaw Jasinski spoke of “arrogance” on the Polish side, something the government spokesman called “extremely irresponsible”.

Nowak’s dismissal followed him telling Jewish News that he believed legislation passed in 2018 seeking to ban certain statements about Poland and the Holocaust “is one of the stupidest amendments that was ever done by any law”.

The legislation sought to fight back against claims that Poland, a victim of Nazi Germany, bore responsibility for the Holocaust. The law outraged Israel, where many felt it was an attempt to whitewash the fact that some Poles did kill Jews during the German occupation during World War II.

The legislation originally called for prison terms of up to three years for falsely attributing German crimes to Poland. It was later amended to remove the criminal provisions.

Last year, Poland also approved a law that sharply restricted the rights to reclaim property seized by the country’s former communist regime, including Holocaust survivors and their families.

That law also provoked a serious diplomatic dispute with Israel, which still remains unresolved.

Nowak said he believed that Poland will, at some point, “have to do something about” restitution.

Nowak has been involved in Polish-Jewish dialogue since the 1980s. He became the plenipotentiary for contacts with the Jewish diaspora in July.

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