President Donald Trump decided to skip a visit to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial during his visit to Poland this week, a break from tradition that has angered Polish Jews.
Trump visited Warsaw this week, en route to the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. While in Warsaw, he delivered a well-received address stressing the importance of alliances between the United States and NATO.
But in skipping a visit to the former ghetto, where beginning in 1940 the city's Jews were penned by Nazi occupiers to await transportation to concentration camps, Trump became the first U.S. president or vice president since the end of the Cold War not to pay tribute there during his first visit to the city.
The leaders of Poland's Jewish community called the decision a "slight."
"Ever since the fall of Communism in 1989, all US presidents and vice presidents visiting Warsaw had made a point of visiting the Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto," Anna Chipczynska, president of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, said in a statement. "They did this in the name of the American people, who had played such a central role in bringing down fascism, and in that of the universal commemoration of the victims of the Shoah [Holocaust], and condemnation of its perpetrators, that people of all nationalities and religions express."
The statement was also signed by Lesław Piszewski, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, and Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich.
"For the Jews of Poland, rebuilding in a democratic Poland their communal life, after the horror of the Shoah and the devastation of Communism, this gesture meant recognition, solidarity and hope," the statement continued. "We deeply regret that President Donald Trump, though speaking in public barely a mile away from the monument, chose to break with that laudable tradition. We trust that this slight does not reflect the attitudes and feelings of the American people."
Instead of going himself, Trump's daughter Ivanka, who is Jewish, visited the monument. She laid a wreath but did not make a speech, though she later wrote about the visit on social media.
"It was deeply moving to be able to visit The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes and the POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews," the first daughter and presidential adviser wrote on Twitter. Adding on Instagram, she said: "It was a privilege to be able to pay my respects and remember with gratitude those who fought with such tenacity against all odds."
The Monument to Ghetto Heroes is dedicated to commemorating the uprising by the 13,000 Jews who died in the 1943 revolt, and was dedicated in 1948.
According to The Washington Post, President Jimmy Carter became the first president to visit the monument while in office, in 1977. Vice President Richard Nixon visited in 1959, but not on a 1972 trip to Warsaw during his presidency. President George H.W. Bush paid tribute at the spot in 1989, just two months after the end of communism in Poland, and President Bill Clinton attended a ceremony there in 1994. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama laid wreaths at the memorial in 2001 and 2011, respectively.
Trump spoke on Thursday in Krasinski Square, standing before the powerful monument that commemorates the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, in which the Polish resistance battled against the occupying German forces as the Soviet Army advanced, only to be defeated and the city destroyed when the Red Army stopped short.
In his speech, Trump made only a brief mention of the Ghetto Uprising as part of his larger tribute to the Polish resistance to the Nazis during World War II.
"Under a double occupation the Polish people endured evils beyond description: the Katyn forest massacre, the occupations, the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the destruction of this beautiful capital city, and the deaths of nearly one in five Polish people," he said. "A vibrant Jewish population – the largest in Europe – was reduced to almost nothing after the Nazis systematically murdered millions of Poland's Jewish citizens, along with countless others, during that brutal occupation."
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