Campaigners attack ‘shameful’ dismissal of Poland’s Jewish envoy

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Campaigners attack ‘shameful’ dismissal of Poland’s Jewish envoy

Figures in Poland, Britain and the United States are among those to have criticised the decision to fire Jaroslaw Marek Nowak

Baroness Ruth Deech
Baroness Ruth Deech

Campaigners and politicians have criticised the Polish government after an envoy appointed to improve relations with Jews was fired over an interview he gave to Jewish News last week.

Jaroslaw Marek Nowak lost his job after saying a Polish law regulating Holocaust speech was “stupid”.

Baroness Ruth Deech, the crossbench peer, said the dismissal was “very sad” because of the potential Nowak presented to reverse Poland’s decades of poor relationship with Jewish communities, while the American Jewish Committee called the dismissal was “shameful”.

Lord Eric Pickles, who also met him recently, said he believed the Polish government would come in time to regret its decision to fire Nowak.

AJC chief executive David Harris said he had seen up close how Nowak was “determined to build deeper bonds” between Poland and world Jewry.

Harris tweeted: “Shamefully, he was just fired by the Polish govt. for truth-telling. Ugh! He deserved far better.”

Pickles said: “Jaroslaw Marek Nowak brought credibility to his role, widely respected for his previous work in Poland, his appointment was seen as an indication that Poland was now prepared to discuss difficult issues.

“I regret his dismissal and I believe, in time, so will the Polish government.”

Deech, who has frequently criticised Poland’s view of the Holocaust and confiscated Jewish property, echoed the view on Monday.

“I think that his dismissal means a loss of someone who potentially was an excellent champion for Jewish relations with Poland and of course his dismissal is a setback in the already sensitive relationship between Poland and the diaspora.”

She told Jewish News that her initial meeting with Nowak had been constructive: “He was receptive to the suggestions that we put to him about restitution, or at the very least commemoration, of the loss of Jewish-owned property during the war and afterwards. And I formed a very good impression of him.

“He also had a very good idea that the young people who visited Auschwitz should be able to make a connection with young Poles too.

“It’s very sad because his dismissal simply reinforces the negative view of Poland’s relationship with freedom of speech and the Holocaust, and Poland’s refusal to contemplate restitution or commemoration with Jewish people.”

Nowak’s dismissal following an interview published by Jewish News last week was welcomed by those closer to Poland’s right-wing government.

Witold Waszczykowski, a former foreign minister under the governing Law and Justice Party said it had appeared as if a competition was being organised to find the Polish official “most contrary to Polish interests”.

Patryk Jaki, an MEP from the Catholic nationalist party United Poland, responded to the news with a single word: “Bravo!”

But opposition politician Radosław Sikorski said Nowak had been dismissed “for telling the truth about the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance.

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