WARSAW: A prominent Jewish-American foundation removed a video from YouTube which had sparked outrage in Poland and beyond on Wednesday with its provocative use of the historically inaccurate term “Polish Holocaust” to protest a controversial new Polish law criminalizing some comments about the Holocaust.
The private Ruderman Family Foundation also launched a campaign calling for the United States to sever its ties with Poland, an ally in NATO where the U.S. has recently deployed troops. The Boston-based foundation put out the video on Wednesday in reaction to the new Polish law, which criminalizes falsely attributing the Holocaust crimes of Nazi Germany to Poland. The measure has angered Israel, where it is seen as an attempt to whitewash the actions of Poles who killed Jews during World War II.
The provocative use of the term “Polish Holocaust” in the video was seen as hugely offensive to many in Poland. Many of Nazi Germany’s death camps, like Auschwitz, were located in German-occupied Poland. Poles had no role in operating them but accounted for the largest number of victims, after Jews.
Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, told the AP that he explained to foundation president Jay Ruderman how troubling the video was and was assured that the video would be removed. Later in the evening the video was gone from YouTube.
“The term ‘Polish Holocaust’ is not accepted by any reasonable person whether Jewish, Polish, Israeli or German,” Ornstein had said earlier. “Emotions are running high and harmful, inaccurate comments from various sides have been published, but this is indefensible,” Ornstein said.
The Ruderman Family Foundation released a statement saying that “after a hugely successful campaign that went viral internationally and among American Jews and Israelis who have signed the petition – the Foundation was contacted by the Polish Jewish community and because of their concerns for their safety, we decided to halt the campaign.”
Michal Dworczyk, an aide to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, described the video as an affront to the thousands of Poles who risked their lives during the war to help Jews. Polish state television’s all-news channel TVP Info reported it as the top story on its website, calling the video “shocking.”
Witold Jurasz, a journalist with the private Polsat broadcaster, called the video “offensive and scandalous,” and said it “spits in the face of every Pole” — even those who, like him, oppose Poland’s Holocaust law.
Poland’s Holocaust law, which takes effect Feb. 28, has already triggered rising anti-Semitism in Poland. In reaction to criticism from Holocaust historians and others, the government said it will be reviewed by Poland’s constitutional court.
Deputy foreign minister Bartosz Cichocki said Tuesday that no criminal charges would be brought under the law until the court reviews it.
Monika Scislowska contributed to this report.