Republicans were crossing their fingers that Donald Trump’s visit to Europe would go better than the last time, but the fates were not on their side. In just one day, Trump became a laughing stock over a failed handshake with Poland’s First Lady and told the Polish people that the horrors they suffered during WWII were just “tough.” He also managed to piss off the leaders of Poland’s Jewish community by snubbing the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial.
Visiting the memorial is a time-honored tradition when U.S. presidents visit Poland, but Trump decided he would just skip it. The Warsaw Ghetto Memorial honors the 750 Jews who lived in the ghetto and fought the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when they came to drag every resident of the ghetto off to concentration camps in 1943.
While Trump didn’t bother to visit the memorial dedicated to the Jews that fought, he did find time to visit the Warsaw Uprising Monument, which honors the Polish resistance fighters who fought the Nazis in 1944, rather than the Jewish fighters from the ghetto.
Leaders of Poland’s Jewish community were not amused with Trump’s decision to omit the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial from his itinerary. A scathing statement signed by Anna Chipczynska, President of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, Lesław Piszewski, President of the Union of the Jewish Communities in Poland, Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, reads:
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. 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, and condemnation of its perpetrators, that people of all nationalities and religions express. 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. 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.
Ivanka Trump, who is Jewish, did visit the memorial and laid a wreath at the site.
It was a deeply moving experience to be able to visit The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes and the POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews. It was a privilege to be able to pay my respects and remember with gratitude those who fought with such tenacity against all odds. #POTUSinPoland
A post shared by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on
But Ivanka’s visit did little to soften the blow of this perceived slight, particularly after the blatant anti-Semitism he and his administration have shown from the very beginning.
Snubbing the memorial apparently wasn’t enough for Trump. He just had to make things a little worse. In his speech, Trump included the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in his list of the “evils beyond description” that the Polish people suffered through during WWII. This prompted Chelsea Clinton to call him out on Twitter.
Wait, what? Surely Trump meant the Warsaw ghetto (way station to Treblinka death camp) was “evil” NOT the uprising against the Nazis. Surely https://t.co/3YbJgCM0PC
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) July 6, 2017
Trump on Hitler and Stalin invading Poland: “That’s trouble. That’s tough.” pic.twitter.com/prE4uOhVnV
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 6, 2017
Any hope of Trump not making more enemies while on his second international trip just went out the window, with a thud.
Featured image via Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images