Wiesenthal Center Strongly Criticizes Secretary of State Tillerson’s Omission of Mention of Jews at Warsaw Ghetto Memorial

January 28, 2018

The Simon Wiesenthal Center strongly criticized US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s remarks at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial when he failed to mention that the victims of the heroic World War II Warsaw Ghetto Uprising were Jews. “While we hope the omission was not done purposely, the Secretary of State’s remarks plays into the hands of those who would deny the specific Jewish character of the Holocaust and intentionally distort its history,” Simon Wiesenthal Center officials stated.

“The omission of any mention of Jews on International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Warsaw Ghetto is similar to omitting any mention of African-Americans in connection with Martin Luther King Day remembrances,” said Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights group devoted to teaching the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust.

"His omission comes on the heels of the passing of a new law in Poland that criminalizes (with a potential three year sentence) mention of any complicity or collaboration of Poles in actions against Jews during the Holocaust, including murder and looting. This law can potentially be used against Holocaust survivors, scholars and anyone else in the US or elsewhere who recount the truth about what really happened in Nazi occupied Poland. That this law was passed just before the International Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust makes it even more of a provocation and insult to the victims of the Holocaust. Secretary Tillerson's omission of the Jewish victims will be viewed by some as a continuation of this pattern and possible appeasement of his Polish hosts” Weitzman added.

Weitzman, who in his role as (then) Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial (IHRA) was a member of an international delegation from IHRA that met with Polish officials in Warsaw in December, 2017 to discuss concerns about the proposed law added, “While we acknowledge and share the Polish governments concern over continued use of the inappropriate and historically inaccurate term 'Polish death camps' which IHRA officially denounced last spring, this new law is totally contrary to the IHRA’s Working Definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion which states that: ‘Distortion of the Holocaust refers, inter alia, to:
Intentional efforts to excuse or minimize the impact of the Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany’."

Weitzman is currently in Rome where he will participate in an audience with Pope Francis and speak at a high-level OSCE meeting on anti-Semitism tomorrow.

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).