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U.S. Jewish group sparks anger in Poland with Holocaust video

Feb. 21, 2018 Updated Wed., Feb. 21, 2018 at 2:49 p.m.

In this Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018  photo, survivors and guests walk past the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate at the former Nazi German concentration camp on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland. (Czarek Sokolowski / Associated Press)
In this Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 photo, survivors and guests walk past the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate at the former Nazi German concentration camp on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland. (Czarek Sokolowski / Associated Press)
By Vanessa Gera Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland – 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 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.

Multiple attempts by the Associated Press to reach the foundation by phone were unsuccessful. But Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, told the AP that he explained to the president Jay Ruderman how troubling the video was and was assured 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.

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.

The official Jewish community of Poland also strongly condemned the video and said the response to the new law “cannot be a campaign of hatred.”

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.

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