WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's Foreign Ministry urgently summoned U.S. Ambassador Stephen Mull on Sunday to "protest and demand an apology," saying the head of the FBI suggested that Poles were accomplices in the Holocaust.
FBI director James Comey made the remarks in an article about the need to educate about the Holocaust that was published by The Washington Post on Thursday. It was adapted from a speech he gave Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In the article, Comey said, "In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn't do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do."
The words raised a storm among politicians in Poland, where the elderly still remember the brutality of the German occupation during World War II, in which more than 6 million Polish citizens were killed.
Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said Comey's words were "unacceptable" in Poland.
"To those who are incapable of presenting the historic truth in an honest way, I want to say that Poland was not a perpetrator but a victim of World War II," Kopacz said. "I would expect full historical knowledge from officials who speak on the matter."
Tomasz Nalecz, an aide to President Bronislaw Komorowski, in a debate on TVN24 called Comey a "blockhead," but added that the "stupidity of one official does not erase the friendship between Poland and the U.S."
But Auschwitz survivor, 93-year-old Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a Pole, said he was concerned that he could hear "stupid words" coming from a politician close to the U.S. president.
After meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Leszek Soczewica on Sunday, Mull said he would urgently contact the FBI and Washington about the matter. Earlier in the day, Mull said in Polish that Comey's words were "wrong, harmful and offensive," and didn't reflect the U.S. administration's views.
The meeting was held shortly after Mull attended ceremonies marking the 72nd anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazi Germans, who transported tens of thousands of the residents who remained in the ghetto to their deaths at the Majdanek camp operated by the Germans near the Polish city of Lublin.
Nazi Germany brutally occupied Poland from 1939-45, and ran death camps here, killing millions of Jews, Poles and others.