Report: Polish president not welcome at the White House

Poland’s deputy foreign minister has denied reports that the US is punishing Poland over a controversial new Holocaust law.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

Poland’s deputy foreign minister denied reports Tuesday that the US is punishing Poland over a controversial new Holocaust law and that the Trump administration has told the country that its president and prime minister are unwelcome in Washington.

Bartosz Cichocki said that Washington has been expressing “concerns and questions” about the law, but that reports of sanctions are untrue.

Polish news portal reported late Monday that the Polish government was told that Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cannot count on any meetings with either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence until Poland changes the law.

Onet said it has seen documents confirming the ultimatum, and reported that the Americans also threatened to block the financing of joint military projects.

Last month, Poland enacted a law that criminalizes the attribution of Holocaust-era crimes to the Poles. Israel, the US and other countries decried the law as an attempt to whitewash Poland’s complacency in the Holocaust, hindering freedom of speech and academic research.

The US has previously warned Poland not to pass the law, which imposes prison sentences of up to three years for falsely and intentionally attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to Poland.

Poland’s nationalist government says the law is meant to protect Poland, a victim of Hitler’s Germany, from being accused of crimes that it did not commit as a nation.

In late January, the US State Department said the law could have “repercussions … on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships.”

“If it’s true that Americans have introduced sanctions against Poland, then the matter is serious. It could hurt Poland’s security,” Stanislaw Tyszka, a deputy speaker of the parliament from a small right-wing party, Kuziz ’15, said Tuesday.

Diplomatic channels remain open

Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska stressed that diplomatic channels remain open, noting that other government officials have visited Washington recently and will do so in the near future.

“Bilateral strategic cooperation with the United States is not threatened, diplomatic contacts remain at the current level,” Kopcinska said.

Poland’s Holocaust law, which took effect last Wednesday, has already triggered rising anti-Semitism in Poland. In reaction to criticism from Holocaust historians and others, the government said the law will be reviewed by Poland’s constitutional court.

Princeton University Professor Jan Tomasz Gross, an expert on Polish complicity in the Holocaust, previously stated that Poland’s new stance dissociating itself from the Holocaust is “a step back to the dark ages of anti-Semitism.”

The Polish-born sociologist and historian has stoked controversy in Poland with works that expose dark chapters in a wartime history of which Poles are otherwise proud, thanks to a strong resistance by Poles to Nazi Germany.

The latest uproar surrounding Gross began after he asserted in 2015 that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the war. Though the exact numbers are difficult to measure, Gross said evidence indicates that Poles killed up to 30,000 Germans during the war, at most, while they probably killed 70,000 to 90,000 Jews, but possibly more.