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Polish president apologises to Jews over 1968 persecution

Gali Tibbon, AFP | Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks at the Hall of Names during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum, commemorating the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II, in Jerusalem on January 17, 2017.

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday apologised to Jews chased out of the country 50 years ago during the communist regime's anti-Semitic campaign.

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"The free and independent Poland of today, my generation, is not responsible and does not need to apologise. But... to those who were driven out then... I'd like to say please forgive the Republic, Poles, the Poland of that time for having carried out such a shameful act," Duda said.

In March of 1968, students staged mass protests defending a banned anti-totalitarian play. The protests were brutally quashed, and the ruling communist factions used the events to justify purging Jews from their ranks.

Some 13,000 Jews were forced to leave Poland that year and were stripped of Polish citizenship. The purge has continued to weigh on relations between Poles and Jews.

On Tuesday, Poland's lawmakers approved a resolution marking the mass protests and condemning the ensuing purge. Both the ruling party and the opposition backed the resolution, which mentioned respect for those who "fought for freedom and democracy" and condemned the "communist organisers of the anti-Semitic persecution".

The resolution and Duda's apology come amid heightened tension between Poland and Israel over Warsaw's new controversial Holocaust bill, which the Jewish state sees as a bid to deny that certain Poles participated in the genocide of Jews during World War II.

>>> Watch our special series on 'Poland: a nation going against the tide'

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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