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May 19, 1996 No 20 (395)

The Warsaw Voice - News

Jewish-Polish RELATIONS

A Poisoned Pen

President Kwasniewski rebuffs a Polish-American leader's letter decrying 'over-submissive' stances on Jewish issues.

Another shadow was cast over Polish-Jewish relations after Edward Moskal, president of the Polish-American Congress, accused the Polish authorities of being "over-submissive to Jewish demands."

In a letter to President Aleksander Kwasniewski he stated that "the series of facts and incidents which have recently occurred have allowed the Jews to paint an unfavorable picture of Poland in the world, due to the tolerant attitude of the Polish authorities." Kwasniewski rejected all Moskal's accusations in his reply.

Referring to the regret expressed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Dariusz Rosati for the anti-Jewish pogrom in Kielce after World War II, Moskal had written that "the Poles had not been found guilty," and he regarded Rosati's remarks as "unfortunate and unnecessary."

Moskal believes the construction of a supermarket near the former Auschwitz concentration camp should not have been halted. "Many people from all over the world go there," he wrote. "They must have the possibility of buying something for their physical needs. Not even at the Holocaust Museum in Washington is that banned."

Moskal was most outraged by the "exceptional treatment given to Jews on the question of the return of their assets in Poland." He recalled that the Polish-American Congress had spent years trying to recover property lost by Poles during and after the war but that on this issue the Polish legislative authorities had not demonstrated any initiative.

Moskal accused the Polish authorities of being too submissive toward the Jews. And he accused the Jews of "presenting Poland to the world as a country conducting an anti-Jewish policy, and the Poles as a nation that drinks in anti-semitism along with its mother's milk."

In his reply, Kwasniewski emphasized that Poland today is an open society in which there is no room for xenophobia and racial discrimination.

The president backed Rosati's remarks and shared his shame that the Kielce tragedy 50 years ago had occurred in Poland.

He said the decision to build the supermarket in Auschwitz had been taken against the law. "But not only the letter of the law instructs us how to proceed," he wrote. "We must also listen to the voice of our humanity. The former concentration camp is not only a museum, but primarily a place of martyrdom and extermination of millions of people-Jews and Poles. We Poles, who have been so severely tried by history, have always honored places where the nation was martyred, and we have learned to treat death with respect."

Kwasniewski went on to explain that the draft law on the return of Jewish assets did not affect private individuals. It was intended to order relations between the state and religious groups once and for all. It covered the return of property to Jewish communities (200-300 properties such as cemeteries, synagogues and schools), which would occur on the same principles as property returned to other denominations.

Piotr Dukaczewski

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