WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A prominent Jewish-American foundation sparked outrage in Poland and beyond on Wednesday with a video calling on the United States to sever its ties with Poland to protest a controversial new Holocaust law, and by repeatedly using the historically inaccurate term "Polish Holocaust."
The private Ruderman Family Foundation put out the video in reaction to the new Polish law, which criminalizes falsely attributing the Holocaust crimes of Nazi Germany to Poland. The measure has angered Israel, where it is seen as an attempt to whitewash the actions of Poles who killed Jews during World War II.
The provocative use of the term "Polish Holocaust" in the video was seen as hugely offensive to many in Poland. Many of Nazi Germany's death camps, like Auschwitz, were located in German-occupied Poland, but Poles had no role in operating them.
"The term 'Polish Holocaust' is not accepted by any reasonable person whether Jewish, Polish, Israeli or German," said Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow. He called on the foundation to remove the video immediately.
"Emotions are running high and harmful, inaccurate comments from various sides have been published, but this is indefensible," Ornstein said.
Michal Dworczyk, an aide to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, described the video as an affront to the thousands of Poles who risked their lives during the war to help Jews.
Polish state television's all-news channel TVP Info reported it as the top story on its website, calling the video "shocking."
Witold Jurasz, a journalist with the private Polsat broadcaster, called the video "offensive and scandalous," and said it "spits in the face of every Pole" — even those who, like him, oppose Poland's Holocaust law.
The official Jewish community of Poland strongly condemned the video and said the response to the new law "cannot be a campaign of hatred."
But Jay Ruderman, president of the U.S. foundation, a philanthropy based in Boston, defended the video, saying it was meant to defy Poland's repression of Holocaust speech.
"I'm sorry to say we're seeing the portents of the negation of Poland's part in the Holocaust quickly turning into full-fledged anti-Semitism right before our eyes," he said in a statement.
Critics of Poland's government feared the video would give it ammunition as it tries to persuade Poles that they are being unfairly attacked by Jews and others worldwide.
The U.S. foundation also began circulating a petition among Israelis and Americans to back a proposed suspension of ties between Poland and the United States, which are NATO allies.
Poland's Holocaust law, which takes effect Feb. 28, has already triggered rising anti-Semitism in Poland. In reaction to criticism from Holocaust historians and others, the government said it will be reviewed by Poland's constitutional court.
Deputy foreign minister Bartosz Cichocki said late Tuesday that no criminal charges would be brought under the law until the court reviews it.