On his way to the G-20 summit in Germany this week, President Donald Trump made a quick stop to Warsaw, Poland, and gave a speech about the importance of defending so-called Western values.
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he said this week.
But Trump also caught the attention for one more thing he did — or rather, didn’t do — during his visit to Poland: visit an important Jewish monument.
According to reporting from Politico, Trump is the first sitting president in decades to have skipped a visit to the monument commemorating the 1943 uprising within the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw.
Jewish leaders in Poland criticized the White House's decision not to visit a monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising https://t.co/RiSKfanvjE
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 6, 2017
That uprising was an important moment during World War 2, when the Nazis attempted to remove the remaining inhabitants there to concentration camps — essentially a death sentence for tens of thousands. The uprising lasted a full month before it was quashed by German soldiers, and remembrances held today recognize the resolve of those who fought against the authoritarian regime.
Trump’s decision not to visit the memorial was “a mistake,” according to one Harvard law professor, who said that not visiting is precisely what the nationalist government currently in charge of Poland wanted.
“The Polish leadership these days is minimizing the Holocaust, and minimizing the Polish role,” Prof. Alan Dershowitz added. “It would have sent a powerful message about Western civilization, which is what Trump is promoting. The Polish government wants to focus on nationalism — and that focuses on what happened to people of Polish, not Jewish, ethnicity.”
Trump has consistently floundered on recognizing important Jewish events or ceremonies that presidents typically have taken part in. In January, Trump’s statement recognizing International Holocaust Remembrance Day didn’t mention Jews or anti-Semitism at all, and his proposed budget aims to cut $3 million from the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. itself.