A former speechwriter and special assistant for President Reagan and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush has been quietly assisting a Polish Warsaw-based organization to minimize the Polish role in the Holocaust, a Daily Beast review of foreign lobbying records has found.
The records, filed under the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), include a document signed by Clark Judge, the former speechwriter, stating that he would “rectify the false narrative, dangerous to Poland's national security and roles in NATO and the EU, of Polish complicity in the Holocaust, extermination camps, and other war crimes.”
Poland was occupied by and undoubtedly suffered greatly at the hands of Nazi Germany, of course. But it does not follow that Poles played no role in the Holocaust. Far from it. As Edna Friedberg, a historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, explained in The Atlantic, “There are well-documented incidents, particularly in the small towns of eastern Poland, where locals—acutely aware of the Nazis’ presence and emboldened by their anti-Semitic policies—carried out violent riots and murdered their Jewish neighbors.” Worse, Polish collaborators formed a police force of some 20,000 who actively assisted German forces in hunting down Jewish people and guarding ghettos where hundreds of thousands of Jews were detained before being sent to execution chambers.
Contrast these historical facts with what Judge’s lobbying registration document goes on to say of Polish complicity in the Holocaust: “Advanced by the active measures of malevolent neighbors, these lies besmirch the reputation of one of World War II's greatest victims by equating it with history's greatest criminals.”
Judge, the former Reagan and Bush speechwriter, is part of a communications shop known as the White House Writing Group. WHWG’s website lists about 20 principals, the vast majority of them GOP veterans. There’s Senior Director Anneke Green, formerly a member of President George W. Bush’s speechwriting team who worked on, among other things, the President’s State of The Union speeches. There’s Senior Director Richard Diamond, who worked in various spokesman roles for former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who led the “Republican Revolution” of the 1990s. There’s Senior Director Eileen Doherty, a former White House aide to President Reagan.
WHWG is apparently targeting Trump administration officials directly with its messaging: per the FARA disclosure, the company "anticipates that it will provide information to U.S. government officials concerning the Polish National Foundations fairness agenda.”
The so-called “fairness agenda” refers to five goals, one of which is to “rectify” the narrative that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust and related crimes.
For their trouble, WHWG is being compensated $135,000 up-front for the first three months, then $45,000 per month, plus expenses, according to the agreement. In its FARA disclosure, WHWG describes its employer, the Polish National Foundation, as a “charitable foundation.” Later it explains that the foundation was founded by 17 commercial corporations themselves all government-owned in whole or in part.
The Polish Embassy in Washington told The Daily Beast that the Polish National Foundation fell outside their purview, adding, “We categorically deny your allegation that Poland is engaged in any form of Holocaust denial. Poland is one of the principle guardians of the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The Polish government’s main concern with regards to the Holocaust is the historical truth.”
The contract, received by the Justice Department in late October of 2017, comes amid a diplomatic row between Israel and Poland over a new Polish law that criminalizes blaming Poland for Nazi crimes. The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, signed the law in early February.
The bill renders illegal the use of phrases like “Polish death camps,” making them punishable by up to three years in prison.
The bill has been championed by Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party, to which Duda claimed membership until becoming an independent in 2015—--though he maintains a close relationship with Law and Justice.
“The most direct reason for (the law) is Poland’s internal politics,” Samuel Kassow, a Trinity College historian, told PolitiFact last month. “The Law and Justice Party in power has a base that is very nationalistic and that is very angry at what it sees as people ignoring Polish suffering during the war, people not paying attention to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 where 200,000 Poles were killed.”
In response to the legislation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel had “no tolerance for distortion of truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
The U.S. has not been silent on the matter, either, though perhaps not in the way one might think. According to a report by Israel’s Channel 10 News quoting senior Israeli officials, the Trump administration—including Vice President Mike Pence himself—pressured Israel’s government and its opposition to shut down criticism of the Polish law.
According to the report, by diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid, the Trump administration’s pressuring succeeded in making the embassies of Poland and Israel co-sponsor a Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Reached for comment, Judge replied, “Short answer: we do not lobby on anything and would not consider any advocacy of any kind for Holocaust denial… under any circumstances.”
Anna Wellisz, a Senior Director at WHWG, added, “For ethical, personal, and family reasons, none of us at WHWG would ever advocate Holocaust denial by anyone to anyone; nor would we ever take a client who does. Poland is a NATO ally. Defaming it weakens the NATO alliance and through that undermines the security of the United States.”