President asks Polish Jews for forgiveness over March 1968
PR dla Zagranicy
The Polish president on Thursday asked for the forgiveness of Polish Jews who suffered as a result of the events of March 1968, though he stressed that those wrongs were carried out by a different Poland than that of today.
Andrzej Duda. Photo: Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP
Speaking at the University of Warsaw, Duda said: "My generation has no reason to apologise for what happened in March '68 to Polish Jews, who were simply expelled from Poland by the communist authorities... I am asking you to forgive the then-Poland for this hideous act."
But he stressed that current-day Poland was not responsible for an anti-Semitic communist government campaign in 1968 and did not have to ask for forgiveness.
Duda also said that current-day Poland was at a disadvantage, having missed out on the contributions that its Jewish population could have made. He called Jews "the elite of intelligentsia", adding that they were successful and respected in other countries.
Stuggle for independence
Duda also said that the events, which started exactly 50 years ago on Thursday, "were undoubtedly the struggle for independence without censorship".
Duda spoke during official commemorations of the events which started with anti-censorship student protests at the University of Warsaw which extended to other parts of the country and were followed by a government campaign which forced thousands of Jews to leave Poland.
Duda on Thursday also laid a wreath at a plaque commemorating the Polish Jews who left Poland in 1968 and met with people who took part in March 1968 protests and with youths from across Poland.
According to an official statement on the president's chancellery's website and the PAP news agency, the March 1968 events included a series of major student and other protests against Poland's then-communist government.
The countrywide demonstrations initially opposed the authorities' decision to ban a patriotic Polish play from being staged at the National Theatre and the expulsion of two Jewish-Polish students from Warsaw University.
The protests were suppressed by security forces. The communist government responded with an anti-Semitic campaign branded as "anti-Zionist," which resulted in the mass emigration of Jews from Poland. (vb/pk)