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30 October 2009updated 27 Sep 2015 5:42am

Chief Rabbi of Poland on BBC

He can't escape his own instincts

By James Macintyre

First, let us remember, here is what the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, said back in July — when he was speaking from the heart, openly, and before he was leant on:


From: Michael Schudrich [mailto:xxxx]
Sent: 27 July 2009 18:21
To: James Macintyre
Subject: Re: Quote request


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Dear James,

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I do not comment on political decisions. However, it is clear that Mr Kaminski was a member of NOP, a group that is openly far-right and neo-Nazi. Anyone who would want to align himself with a person who was an active member of NOP and the Committee to Defend the Good Name of Jedwabne (which was established to deny historical facts of the massacre at Jedwabne) needs to understand with what and by whom he is being represented.

Michael Schudrich


This morning, he finally broke his silence and gave an interview to the Today programme on Radio 4. I congratulate the programme for tracking down the elusive rabbi. But I condemn it for providing such a cleverly slanted interview. James Naughtie allowed his interviewee to contradict himself and let Michal Kaminski off the hook. He went out of his way to justify the mindset that would attack the Polish nation for apologising for the Jedwabne massacre, and he asked loaded questions, such as whether Kaminski is “extremist” or “somewhere near the mainstream”. As if this weren’t enough, Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor, weighed in, implying that David Miliband would be obliged to apologise to William Hague for emphasising this story.

So, what did the Chief Rabbi actually say today? Well, he certainly said Kaminski was “today — today” not anti-Semitic, though he couldn’t “check people’s hearts”. And the Israel canard (Nick Griffin is a “strong supporter” of Israel) was referred to. But he repeatedly spoke of finding both Kaminski’s position on the 1941 massacre — and past membership of neo-Nazi NOP — “problematic”.

The Chief Rabbi called Kaminski “complicated”. Well, he is clearly not the only one. Michael Schudrich has made a number of differing statements now about Kaminski, including the one to the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange.

Has the statement Rabbi Schudrich made to Policy Echange been shown in full? It will be interesting to hear from the Chief Rabbi exactly what contact he has had from the Conservative Party, or Policy Exchange, or from any of the other people involved. A pity Today was so uninterested in drawing attention — as Andrew Neil did yesterday — to the contradiction at the centre of the rabbi’s two statements.

In the meantime, the question remains: what happened to Rabbi Schudrich after his original statement, reproduced above, showed his true feelings about Kaminski?