Former head of the Polish bishops' conference, Tadeusz Pieronek, has stirred up controversy with remarks he made about the Holocaust. An interview he gave to a journalist was published on the Italian Catholic website www.pontifax.roma.it.
According to Pieronek the interview was published on the website without his authorization. He is quoted as saying that the Jews 'expropriated' the Holocaust as 'a propaganda weapon'. He is also alleged to have said that "the Holocaust as such is a Jewish invention [invenzione ebraica]. We could just as well establish a day of remembrance to the numerous victims of communism, when Catholics and Christians were persecuted."
The timing of the comments has added to the controversy. Wednesday of this week marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day - the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, is displaying Nazi blueprints of Auschwitz that were recently discovered.
Pieronek isn't backing down. When asked if the Holocaust has been exploited he said: "Certainly it has. It is used as a propaganda weapon to get advantages that are often unjustified."
He added that:
... they, the Jews, enjoy good press because they have powerful financial means behind them, enormous power and the unconditional backing of the United States and this favours a certain arrogance that I find unbearable.
These remarks seem at odds with the background of bishop Pieronek who appears to have been more of a mediator and less of a provocateur in the past. In 2008 he received the Jan Karski Eagle Award for work he did combating extremism in Polish society, in particular the alleged anti-Jewish bias of Radio Maryja... a reactionary mouthpiece run by the Redemptorist priest Tadeusz Ryzdzyk. Pieronek has also been supportive of the Open Society Institute of George Soros.
The bishop addressed issues other than the Holocaust. He expressed outrage at the treatment of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israelis:
Seeing the photographs of the wall we can conclude that a colossal injustice has been committed against the Palestinians, who are treated like animals and their rights are being violated.
Let them establish a Memorial Day for them also.
He says that there are inaccuracies in the version published by the Italian site:
I have not seen the printed text of the interview, which I have given but have not authorized. But if I were to believe in what I hear from the media then it looks as though the final form of the interview was the idea of the journalist that I had spoken to, as the text is full of vague statements.
Polish news report of the story - here.