B’nai B’rith International mourns the tragic loss of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, Maria, and nearly 100 government, military, and church leaders in a tragic plane crash on April 10. The group was en route to a service in memory of 20,000 Polish officers killed in a Soviet massacre during World War II.
Kaczynski was a reliable friend of the Jewish community and a supporter of Holocaust education and commemoration. As mayor of Warsaw, he was instrumental in laying the ground work for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is scheduled to open in 2012. During his presidency, he visited Israel for the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebration and, earlier this year, spoke at a ceremony at Auschwitz marking the 65th anniversary of the Nazi concentration camp’s liberation.
A staunch foe of communism, Kaczynski became a firm believer in the trans-Atlantic partnership. His presidency saw a democratic Poland emerge as a key member-state in both NATO and the European Union. President Kaczynski also proved himself to be a close and trusted ally of both the United States and Israel.
B’nai B’rith, whose presence in Poland dates back to the 1880s, was forced to close its lodges there in 1938. At a 2007 ceremony in Warsaw, Kaczynski sent a message welcoming the reestablishment of a B’nai B’rith lodge in Poland and underscoring a commitment to the continuous development of the Polish-Jewish relationship.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the people of Poland at this moment of profound national sorrow.