(JNS.org) Polish Education Minister Anna Zalewska has come under fire for remarks appearing to deny Polish responsibility for two massacres of Jews, one during the Holocaust and the other after the end of World War II.
Zalewska had addressed the Jedwabne massacre of 1941, during which Poles burned alive more than 300 Jews inside a barn, and the Kielce massacre in 1946, in which 42 people were shot by Polish police because of a false blood libel accusation. The anniversaries of both pogroms were observed in Poland last week.
For many years, Poles tended to avoid discussing these pogroms, and when they did address them, they denied that Polish anti-Semitism had been a motive and instead blamed the Germans for the massacres. But the book "Neighbors," published in 2000 by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, began to change Polish perspectives on the issue, creating greater soul-searching in Polish society and leading to official state apologies for the pogroms.
But when Zalewska was asked about the two pogroms by a journalist in an interview on the public broadcaster TVN, she said that ”Jedwabne is a historical fact that has led to many misunderstandings and very biased opinions.”
When the journalist retorted that "Poles burned Jews in a barn,” Zalewska responded, “That's your opinion."
The head of Never Again, an anti-racism watchdog group, told the Associated Press on Thursday that it is "appalled by those comments which amount to denial of the historical truth about anti-Semitic pogroms."
Former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tweeted that if the government of Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo "doesn't fire Zalewska, then nobody should be surprised if her government is considered 'Judeo-skeptic.'" Sikorski was referring to several members of the populist ruling party, Law and Justice, who have made controversial statements pandering to extreme nationalists.