The U.S. ambassador to Poland apologized Sunday for remarks by FBI Director James Comey that Poland shared responsibility for the Holocaust with Nazi Germany. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski called the comments an “insult to thousands of Poles who helped Jews” while the country’s foreign ministry summoned U.S. ambassador Stephen Mull to account for Comey’s remarks.
"I made clear that the opinion that Poland is in any way responsible for the Holocaust is not the position of the United States," Mull said in comments reported by Agence France-Presse. "Nazi Germany alone bears responsibility. I now have a lot of work before me to make things right in this situation."
The FBI director mentioned Poland’s alleged complicity in the Holocaust in a Washington Post opinion piece published Thursday aimed at raising awareness of the atrocity. "In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn't do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do,” he wrote.
The article sparked an instant outcry in Poland, with many arguing the passage wrongly implied it was complicit in the Nazis' mass slaughter of European Jews. "To those who are incapable of presenting the historic truth in an honest way, I want to say that Poland was not a perpetrator but a victim of World War II,” Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said. “I would expect full historical knowledge from officials who speak on the matter."
Poland played host to some of the war’s most infamous death camps during the Nazi occupation (1939-1945), including Auschwitz where 1.1 million mainly Jews were killed. Poland’s historic role in the Nazi extermination campaign remains a sensitive subject, and the government has shown keenness to dissociate the country from the atrocity, even in geographic descriptions of the camps. President Barack Obama expressed his regret after he labeled a Nazi facility a “Polish death camp.” The description sparked outrage in Warsaw in 2012. The government has argued the term can give the impression Poland shared responsibility for the Holocaust.