Trump in Europe: First President In Decades to Skip Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Monument, Angers Rabbis

Trump Warsaw
President Donald Trump gives a public speech in front of the Warsaw Uprising Monument at Krasinski Square in Warsaw, Poland July 6, 2017 Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Donald Trump has once again earned a sharp rebuke from members of the Jewish community, this time for failing to visit a commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during his short stay in Poland. Since the fall of communism in that country in 1989, Trump became the first United States president to fail to pay tribute to the memorial to Jewish resistance within the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II.

Related: Trump will have buses of supporters sent to his speech in Poland, utilizing Communist Party tactics 

Instead, Trump visited the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, a tribute to the revolt against German occupation by both Polish fighters and civilians. During his speech in the Polish capital, Trump referenced the “evils” inflicted on the Polish people in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Trump's daughter Ivanka, an Orthodox Jew, did lay a wreath at the memorial her father skipped, called the Monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes. But the president’s failure to squeeze in a personal visit led to immediate criticism from the country’s Jewish leaders.

“[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, alongside so many other ones,” read a joint statement from Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the president of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland, Leslaw Piszewski, and the Jewish community of Warsaw president, Anna Chipczynska.

“We trust that this slight does not reflect the attitudes and feelings of the American people.”

Schudrich later accompanied Ivanka Trump to the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes and said her visit was “very, very important.” He added, though, that the president’s absence was “sad.” Asked for comment on Trump’s failure to visit, the White House provided only the transcripts of the president’s and Ivanka Trump’s speeches.

“It was a deeply moving experience to visit the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes and the POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews,” she said. “It was a privilege to pay my respects and remember, with gratitude, those who tenaciously fought against all odds. The monument, erected on the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto, symbolizes the fight for freedom. I am profoundly grateful for those who fought and all those who continue to fight today.”

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all visited the monument during their trips to Warsaw. Visiting shortly after the downfall of communism in 1989, George H.W. Bush attended a wreath-laying ceremony on the edge of the former Warsaw Ghetto, from which more than 300,000 Jews were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp.

Obama Warsaw President Barack Obama attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ghetto Monument in Warsaw May 27, 2011. Franciszek Mazur/Agencja Gazeta/Reuters

It is far from the first time Trump and his administration have irked the Jewish community. That fact was pointed out in a statement later in the day by the New York-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, a frequent critic of the president.

“This is President Trump's latest insensitivity to the Jewish community that can't help but make you question the President's motives,” said Steven Goldstein, executive director of the center. 

“He excluded Jews in his January Holocaust remembrance statement. He kept Sean Spicer after Spicer said, in April, that Hitler didn't gas his own people. And as incidents of Antisemitism in America have skyrocketed on this Administration's watch, the President has offered no plan of action. Add it all up and the President's message to Jews is one national slap in the face that cannot be mitigated by trotting out Ivanka and Jared as defensive talking points.”