Catholic, Jewish leaders in Poland seek to reduce tensions

WARSAW — Catholic and Jewish leaders in Poland have taken steps to try to rebuild dialogue and fight prejudice in their communities after a Polish-Israeli dispute sparked expressions of mutual hostility.

The Polish Bishops’ Conference reacted to an eruption of anti-Jewish rhetoric in Poland by describing anti-Semitism in a statement Wednesday as being ‘‘contradictory to the principles of Christian love of one’s neighbor.’’

A group of rabbis in Poland replied Thursday to the bishops, saying they deeply appreciated their condemnation of anti-Semitism. They also vowed to continue to speak out against analogous attitudes among Jews, referring to expressions of anti-Polish sentiment voiced by Israelis and American Jews recently.


Bad feelings erupted in late January over a new Polish law that criminalizes blaming Poland for Germany’s Holocaust crimes.

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It was the Nazis who oversaw the exterminations — by means of mass shootings, gas chambers, starvation, and slave labor — that claimed the lives of some six million Jews. But the role of Polish collaborators, participants, and enablers in the Nazi-run system of mechanized death remains a subject of fraught historical inquiry.

Poland’s right-wing government says its goal is to defend the nation from slander, but scholars say the result is to stifle inquiry and reconciliation.