Polish President Andrzej Duda apologized on Thursday to the thousands of Jews driven out of the country by communists in 1968, while his prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, continued to defend the law that criminalizes talk of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
“The free and independent Poland of today, my generation, is not responsible and does not need to apologize,” Duda said at an event at the University of Warsaw marking the 50th anniversary of a communist-era anti-Jewish campaign in Poland.
He added, however, that: “Through my lips, Poland is asking forgiveness, asking them to be willing to forget, to be willing to accept that Poland regrets very much that they are not in Poland today.”
In March 1968, Polish students and academics protested nationwide against the communist regime. The protests were exploited by the communists to purge the Jews from the country, leading to the forced exodus of an estimated 15,000 Jews.
Duda’s apology comes amid heightened tensions over the new Holocaust law between Poland, Israel and Jewish communities in Poland and abroad.
At a news conference in Brussels, Morawiecki said, “This difficult discussion [with Israel] that we are having today brings to light certain truths that were being questioned two months ago all over the world. For example, [the false idea that there were] ‘Polish gas chambers’ or ‘Polish death camps.’”
“For all people of goodwill, those who don’t want to express opinions which would harm us deliberately... today it is clear, and it was not clear two months ago or two years ago, that there were no such things as ‘Polish Gestapo’ [secret police in Nazi Germany] or ‘Polish SS’ [paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler],” he added.
“I hope that our relations will continue and that our intentions concerning the revision of the IPN [Polish Institute of National Remembrance] law will be understood correctly and doubts will be dispelled; and that, both in the long and in the short-term, our positions will become even closer because we are, of course, an important partner for Israel,” Morawiecki said.