Polish President Duda visits JCC Krakow amidst continuing “death camps” row

(L-R) President Andrzej Duda, First Lady Agata-Kornhauser Duda, Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, and JCC Krakow Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein in the FRAJDA Early Chidhood Center (phot. JCC Krakow)
(L-R) Polish President Andrzej Duda (L) with JCC Krakow Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein, First Lady Agata-Kornhauser Duda, and Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich in the FRAJDA Early Chidhood Center (phot. JCC Krakow)

Polish President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda visited Krakow’s Jewish Community Center today for about two hours to meet with local Jewish leaders, as well as to see the FRAJDA Early Childhood Center which opened last year.

The visit comes at a fraught time in Polish-Jewish relations in the wake of an amendment signed into law by Duda earlier this month which criminalizes the controversial phrase “Polish death camps” and other language which broadly implicates Poland of guilt for the Holocaust. The move has sparked widespread condemnation, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it an “attempt to rewrite history.”

[Read more about the controversy around the amendment.]

The conflict has become increasingly ugly – for example, with popular right-wing Polish weeklies Do Rzeczy and Najwyższy Czas! publishing antisemitic illustrations. The February 25th cover of the former magazine bears the headline “ATTACK ON POLAND: How to stop this brutal wave?” with a Star of David overlaying it.

In a 15-minute speech at the JCC, Duda condemned such reactions. “Nothing worse can happen than people who survived the Holocaust being punished for their testimonies,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”

In his introductory remarks, JCC Krakow Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein expressed hope that the meeting would “put Polish-Jewish relations back on track.”

Also in attendance were Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, Director of Hillel GIMEL Jewish Student Club Marcjanna Kubala, and Holocaust survivors Zofia Radzikowska and Tadeusz Jakubowicz.

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