Poland awaiting Israel’s apology for minister’s comments

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish government official said Tuesday that Warsaw is still waiting for Israel’s government to apologize for comments the acting foreign minister made about Poles and their role in the Holocaust.

Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek said the “shameful, scandalous and slanderous” comments by the Israeli minister, Israel Katz, require an “unequivocal and definite” reaction.

Szynkowski vel Sek said it was up to Israel to choose the form the apology takes and how it is delivered. He said more education is needed about what happened during World War II on Polish soil.

Katz said Sunday, his first as Israel’s acting foreign minister, that Poles collaborated with Nazi Germans during the war and “sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”

The “mothers’ milk” remark repeated a 1989 comment by Israel’s then-prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, which drew condemnation at the time as well.

In response to Katz, Poland pulled out of a summit of central European nations in Jerusalem scheduled for this week.

The summit was canceled. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead hosted a series of sit-downs Tuesday with his Czech, Slovakian and Hungarian counterparts.

The U.S. ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, wrote on her Polish-language Twitter account that Katz’s comments were “offensive” and out of place between such “close allies as Poland and Israel.”

Dueling narratives about the Holocaust have been a source of tension between Israel and Poland, which otherwise have strong relations. Poland lost 6 million citizens during World War II, half of them Jews.

At the start of the war in 1939, Poland was the first country invaded by German troops and occupied by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s military regime. It fought the invasion and never had a collaborationist government.

Thousands of Poles risked being executed by the Nazis to help or shelter Jews. Holocaust researchers also have collected evidence of Polish people who killed or blackmailed Jews for financial gain.

Much of Israel’s founding generation was made up of Jews who had fled anti-Semitism in Poland or elsewhere in eastern Europe. Shamir, the late Israeli prime minister, had said Poles killed his father.

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