Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. World
  2. Europe
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

 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Dear James,

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up

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?