Digital Publisher of the Year | Sunday 11 October 2009 | Poland feed

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Stephen Fry provokes Polish fury over Auschwitz remark

The Polish embassy has accused Stephen Fry of "slander" after he suggested Poles had played a role in the Holocaust.

 
The Polish embassy has accused Stephen Fry of slander
The Polish embassy has accused Stephen Fry of slander Photo: PA

He made the comments on Channel 4 news while talking about the Conservative Party's links with Poland's Law and Justice party.

The party has members that have faced accusations of anti-Semitism and homophobia, and Mr Fry appeared to hint that Poland may hold some responsibility for the mass murder of European Jews.

"Let's face it, there has been a history in Poland of right-wing Catholicism, which has been deeply disturbing for those of us who know a little history, and remember which side of the border Auschwitz was on," he said.

The remark provoked a furious response from the Polish embassy.

"To suggest, even indirectly, that the Polish people, and Poland as a country, are in some way collectively responsible for the [Auschwitz] death camp, which became the symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust, is completely wrong and frankly – defamatory," the embassy said a statement.

Comment pages on internet news sites in Poland also reflected Polish anger, with many posters accusing Mr Fry of ignorance of wartime history and indifference to the deaths of the thousands upon thousands of non-Jewish Poles who also perished at Auschwitz.

While most Poles accept their nation was tainted by anti-Semitism before the war, any insinuation that Poland played a role in the Holocaust is vehemently rejected.

Poles point out that pre-war Poland contained Europe's largest Jewish population, and, following the Nazi conquest of the continent, Poland was the only country that had no collaborationist regime.

Mr Fry's comments came after he signed an open letter protesting about the Conservative's ties with Law and Justice.

In particular attention has focused on Michal Kaminski, a Law and Justice MEP who heads the European parliament grouping to which the Tories belong.

A controversial character, in the past Mr Kaminski belonged to an extreme-right party, and he has also earned the scorn of Polish gay-rights groups for referring to homosexuals as "fags".

Mr Kaminski denies any accusations that of anti-Semitic or homophobic.

 
 
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