A draft law approved by the lower Polish parliament that would make it a crime to say Poles participated in the crimes of the Holocaust caused outrage in Israeli, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that he is “strongly opposed” to the legislation. According to a report by The Guardian, the bill still must be approved by the Polish senate and President Andrzej Duda before it becomes law. In its current version, it would make phrases such as “Polish death camps” punishable by Poland—which was occupied by the Nazis during the Holocaust—was only on the right side in World War II.
“The law is baseless; I strongly oppose it,” said Netanyahu on Saturday in comments released by his office. “One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied.” The Israeli leader’s stern comments were made on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Guardian reported that the Polish law passed the lower legislative branch the day before.
Netanyahu’s office announced on Sunday that he and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke by phone that evening and “the two agreed that teams from the two countries would open an immediate dialogue in order to try to reach understandings regarding the legislation.”
In his comments on the new law, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin noted that there were Polish heroes in World War II that saved Jews, but that the villains must be acknowledged and condemned as well.
“Among the Polish people there were those who aided the Nazis in their crimes. Every crime, every offense, must be condemned. They must be examined and revealed,” said Rivlin in comments released by his office on Saturday.
“There were also others among them who fought and were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, more than ever, and above all considerations, we are faced with our duty to remember our brothers and sisters who were murdered.”
Rivlin noted that just 73 years after the Holocaust, and with the remaining survivors passing away, “we still have to fight for the memory of the Holocaust as it was.”
On Saturday, Netanyahu said he had instructed the Israeli ambassador to Poland to meet with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to share “my strong position against the law.”
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel that seeks to identify all Jews killed in the Holocaust by name, issued a statement also opposing the law, saying it “is liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust.”
Yad Vashem acknowledged that “there is no doubt” that phraseology such as “Polish death camps”—as opposed to Nazi death camps set up in occupied Poland—is “a historical misrepresentation!” Yet while the Nazis were the ones ultimately responsible for camps in Poland such as Auschwitz, Yad Vashem said that cooperation by Poles in the Holocaust cannot just be ignored either.
“Restrictions on statements by scholars and others regarding the Polish people’s direct or indirect complicity with the crimes committed on their land during the Holocaust are a serious distortion,” said the statement. “Yad Vashem will continue to support research aimed at exposing the complex truth regarding the attitude of the Polish population towards the Jews during the Holocaust.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 27, 2018)