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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » May 7, 2015
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Anger at FBI Boss’s Holocaust Remark
May 7, 2015   
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The head of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has caused outrage by suggesting that Poland was jointly responsible for the Holocaust.

During a speech at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, FBI chief James Comey said the most terrifying lesson learned from the Holocaust was that people had ignored their own sense of what was right and wrong. “In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil,” Comey said. “They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do.”

Comey’s statement triggered an instant response from Poland’s top politicians. President Bronisław Komorowski said the FBI chief had insulted all those Poles who had put their own lives at risk to save Jews during the Nazi invasion of Poland in World War II. Komorowski added that Poland was the only Nazi-occupied country during the war where those who were found to be helping Jews faced execution, along with their families.

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said that everybody with a knowledge of history realized that Poland was a victim of the horrors of World War II and did not incite or perpetrate them. Poland’s Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna added that he expected an apology from Comey.

Some Polish politicians, especially members of right-wing opposition parties, went so far as to demand that the FBI chief be sued for defaming Poland and the Polish people. They claimed Comey had exposed the United States’ lack of regard for Poland which, they said, instead of being treated like a partner was often subjected to unfounded accusations. Comey’s words also met with a firm response from the Polish American Congress, whose president, Frank Spula, demanded that Comey be dismissed.

The U.S. ambassador to Poland, Stephen Mull, expressed surprise at what Comey had said. During commemorations of the 72nd anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Mull said that any suggestion that “Poland, or any other countries than Nazi Germany, bear responsibility for the Holocaust is a mistake, harmful and insulting.”

Several days later, Comey met in Washington with Ryszard Schnepf, the Polish ambassador to the United States, and said that his words had been misunderstood. “I value our friendship with Poland,” Comey added in a handwritten note he sent to Schnepf later. “I regret linking Germany and Poland in my speech, because Poland was invaded and occupied by Germany. The Polish State bears no responsibility for the horrors imposed by the Nazis. I wish I had not used any other country names, because my point was a universal one about human nature.” After the letter, Polish Foreign Minister Schetyna described the controversy as a “closed case.”
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