[Exclusive] American Jewish Leader: Put ‘Polish Holocaust genie’ back in the bottle

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wades into the Polish-Israeli Holocaust controversy.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

Relations between Israel and Poland are only getting worse in the aftermath of the Polish government’s controversial Holocaust bill. The latest flare-ups include a suggestion by the Polish prime minister that Jews were among the perpetrators of the Holocaust, following by an equally ludicrous proposal by the deputy PM that Poland build what he referred to as a “Polocaust” museum.

American Jewry is becoming invested in the issue, and there are some who are calling for a cancellation of the annual March of the Living trip to the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Poland. That is not the view of the leadership of American Jewry.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations told World Israel News (WIN) that the issue has gotten way out of hand. “The situation is escalating and I regret that very much. I’d like to find a way to put the genie back in the bottle. The Polish leadership must be made to realize that they made a major mistake.”

Hoenlein is concerned because instead of walking back their “unacceptable” actions and comments, the Polish leadership is doubling-down and making matters worse. “More and more people are being drawn into this and now there is even talk about how this will impact the upcoming March of the Living. I don’t want to punish our kids and these valuable educational trips. The March of the Living will go ahead this year. There are over 12,000 American youth already signed up.”

“We are not planning to cancel. But if people get an inkling that there could be danger of anti-Semitic attacks and the kids fear for their safety and security it could have a very dramatic impact. The Polish government has to understand that Jewish tourism to the Holocaust memorials is a major source of income for them. That is not the reason they much take back this legislation. They should do so based on moral grounds and for the sake of historical accuracy. They are distorting history. Just as we recognize that there were Poles who helped Jews, we must also recognize that there were many Poles who contributed to the Holocaust and were collaborators with the Nazis. To deny that fact is to engage in revisionism,” Hoenlein said.

According to Honelein, “The US role in the controversy has been very limited to this point, but that may change. The White House issued a statement, but they have not really done anything beyond a ‘moral’ expression. They don’t see it affecting them but they should. It’s a moral imperative that everybody should get involved because ultimately, Holocaust denial has a major impact on everyone. “

Turning to the issue of rising anti-Semitism in the US, Hoenlein acknowledged that the number of incidents is on the rise. “There is the old neo-Nazi anti-Semitism and there is the new BDS anti-Semitism parading as anti-Israel sentiment. Law enforcement officials are concerned. We are trying to take prophylactic measures and we are mobilizing the community in an effective way to address the issue. It’s not only a matter of internet expressions of Jew hatred. Now there are also real physical manifestations with anti-Semitic violence,” Hoenlein said.