The World Zionist Organization has awarded its Jerusalem Prize for 2019 to Rafal Dutkiewicz, who served as mayor of the Polish city Wroclaw from 2002-2018, for his support for the local Jewish community.

During the prize ceremony, Dutkiewicz said he apologized in the name of the Polish people for Poland’s 1968 deportation of Jews and called to battle anti-Semitism.

The 1968 deportation took place following clashes between the Communist government and a student group that advocated for freedom of expression and against censorship, which led to a political crisis that snowballed into a wave of persecution against Jews and Zionists. The Jews who remained in Poland after the war, who by then numbered only tens of thousands, were uprooted. Approximately 20,000 were deported or forced to give up their Polish citizenship.

“Before the Holocaust, there was a big Jewish community that was wiped out during the war. After the war, there were thousands of Jews [still] living here, and they, too, were deported and left the city. It happened because of pressure from the Communist government, but it happened in Poland and I want to apologize,” said Dutkiewicz.

“There is also anti-Semitism today, and we must fight it. I am committed to keeping up my support for the Jewish community and the State of Israel. I admire it, its culture, and its capital, Jerusalem. I am doing everything I can to continue on this path,” he said.

The committee responsible for picking the Jerusalem Prize winner said it had selected Dutkiewicz because of his consistent, determined backing of the Jewish community; his open support for the community year-round; and his “personal and public courage in speaking out in support of the Jewish community and Israel, which is not in line with current political sentiment.”

Senior members of the Wroclaw Jewish community attended the prize ceremony, along with a number of government officials, ambassadors and public figures.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.