The curious case of Michal Kaminski
“I hope Kaminski uses his speech to the Tories to make clear that racism and homophobia have no place in European politics
At the National Theatre in London, the play Our Class is pulling in crowds. It examines the massacre by a small group of antisemitic Poles of hundreds of Jews in Jedwabne in north east Poland in 1941. No Nazis were involved. The massacre was covered up by the communist rulers in Poland after 1945. Not until well after the end of communism did the facts come to light. The inconvenient truth that some Poles had taken part in a massacre of Jews caused fury in the rightwing circles in Poland associated with Radio Maryja, the anti-Jewish radio station and among many Polish politicians who felt their nation’s honour had been besmirched.
In 2001, Poland’s president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, went to Jedwabne to apologise. Like Willy Brandt kneeling at the Warsaw Ghetto in 1970, Kwasniewski felt atonement was needed. As Anita Prazmowska has related here, his gesture was criticised by many rightwing Poles, including the rising star of Polish Catholic nationalist politics, Michal Kaminski. His language was lurid and vivid. It upset many Jews. He tried to backtrack but his remarks had been taped.
“Mr President should not take the guilt on the Polish nation, the whole nation that he should represent for what happened in Jedwabne and apologise in its name. I am ready to say the word: I am sorry but under two conditions. First of all, I need to know what I am apologising for. I apologise for a handful of outcasts. Secondly, I can do that if I know that someone from the Jewish side will apologise for what the Jews did during the Soviet occupation between 1939 and 1941. For the mass collaboration of the Jewish people with the Soviet occupier, for fighting Polish partisans in this area. And eventually, for murdering Poles.”
Michal Kaminski has now come to prominence after David Cameron ordered Tory MEPs to serve under his leadership in the European parliament, as part of the Conservative policy of breaking links with mainstream centre-right parties in Europe.”
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Update – Mira adds: see Martin Bright, the Jewish Chronicle’s political editor, on his interview with Kaminski, a report which flies in the face of his editor’s defence of the Polish nationalist politician. Kaminski confirmed to Bright that he had indeed said what he had denied to The Observer.
“It is now obvious that the Tories did not carry out due diligence. Dismissing concerns raised about Mr Kaminski as Labour smears is just not good enough. I spoke to senior Tories close to Mr Cameron this week who never thought it was a good idea to withdraw from the centre-right European People’s Party. Their deepest fears have now been confirmed.”