NEW YORK – The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has praised Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland’s first prime minister after the fall of Communism, as one of the architects of the modern, democratic Poland and as a friend of Israel and the Jewish people. Mazowiecki died on Monday at the age of 86.
“Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s silent but effective diplomacy ensured that his country’s transition was successful. Together with Lech Walesa, he laid the foundations for what is today the strongest country both economically and politically in Central and Eastern Europe,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder.
Lauder highlighted that the Mazowiecki government re-established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1990 and helped to open Polish airports for Jews leaving the then Soviet Union. He was also part of the group that successfully fought for the repeal of the 1975 United Nations General Assembly Resolution that "determined that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination".
“The Jews are grateful to Tadeusz Mazowiecki for his staunch defense of their rights as Poland emerged from Communism, and for his help in resolving the crisis of the Carmelite convent on the grounds of Auschwitz in the early 1990s. He will also be remembered for speaking out against anti-Semitism clearly and unequivocally and exposing war crimes as special rapporteur for human rights in the former Yugoslavia. May his memory be for a blessing,” Lauder declared.
Walesa: 'Best prime minister Poland ever had'
One of the early members of the Solidarity movement, Tadeusz Mazowiecki became prime minister in August 1989, two months after Solidarity won elections and its iconic leader Lech Walesa tapped him for the job. He and Walesa later fell out and ran against each other in a presidential election the following year, which Walesa handily won. "He was really one of the outstanding people I met on this journey," of transition, Walesa told Poland's TVN24 news channel. "Mazowiecki was the best prime minister Poland ever had," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate added.
Wojciech Jaruzelski, 90, who was Poland's last Communist president under whom Mazowiecki served as premier, hailed him for even-handedness. "I valued Prime Minister Mazowiecki for his wisdom, his moderation and sober evaluation of the difficult situation as well as his determination on matters he thought were crucial," Jaruzelski told the PAP news agency. "It was a period of transition, a time of change, and we had to adjust to the reality of the situation," he added.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz called Mazowiecki a "noble character" who had been "instrumental in changing the history of Poland and Europe."
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Mazowiecki was leaving "behind an important legacy. He worked to improve relations with the West, paving the way for Poland's eventual accession to NATO and the European Union. Indeed, the world has lost a true statesman. His legacy transformed Poland into a vanguard of democratic and free-market values."