Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed proposed new legislation in Poland prohibiting any reference to “Polish nation” crimes during the Holocaust.
Israel’s Ambassador in Warsaw will meet Poland’s Prime Minister to stress Netanyahu’s opposition to the proposed bill.
And Poland’s deputy Polish Ambassador in Israel will be admonished at the Foreign Ministry as the Polish ambassador is abroad.
“The law is baseless, I strongly oppose it,” said Netanyahu (JTA).
“One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”
In a statement from the President’s Office, President Reuven Rivlin, lambasted the bill (JTA).
“Only 73 years have passed since the gates of hell were flung open,” Rivlin said.
“Living Holocaust survivors are disappearing from the world and we still have to fight for the memory of the Holocaust as it was. The Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the entire world must ensure that the Holocaust is recognized for its horrors and atrocities.
“Also 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.”
Polish parliament’s ‘lower house’ approved the law, which also bans the term “Polish death camp”, last Friday. Those violating the statute, including non-Polish citizens, could be fined or imprisoned up to three years. And Jewish survivors from Poland living in Israel in theory would be liable for imprisonment in Poland.
Whilst the law has to be passed by the Senate and Polish President, observers view the biggest hurdle has been overcome.
Furious Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid entered into a Twitter argument with the Polish Embassy in Israel within 24 hours (JTA).
“I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust,” he tweeted. “It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier.
“There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that.”
Poland’s Embassy in Israel responded: “Your unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel… The intent of the Polish draft legislation is not to ‘whitewash’ the past, but to protect the truth against such slander.”
Lapid replied: “I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.”
Various politicians joined the Twitter debate reported Ha’aretz.
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz: “The Polish parliament’s law is to deny Poland’s part in and responsibility for the massacre that took place on its soil. We will not forgot or forgive.”
Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay: “The decision will encourage Holocaust deniers around the world to spread their lies. Ignoring history does not change it.”
MK Isaac Herzog: “The bill which had just passed in Poland is morally and factually wrong. It should not have been legislated. I sincerely hope that it will be abolished soon by the Polish leadership and legislature.”
Yad Vashem issued a statement on Saturday night noting the legislation would “blur historical truths” regarding assistance Germans received from Poles during the Holocaust.
The statement noted: “There is no doubt that the term “Polish death camps” is a historical misrepresentation! The extermination camps were set up in Nazi-occupied Poland in order to murder the Jewish people within the framework of the “Final Solution.” However, 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. 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.”
World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer admonished the law.
“Poles are understandably sensitive when Nazi annihilation and concentration camps are referred to as ‘Polish,’ simply due to their location on Polish soil, and they want it to be clear that Germans, not Poles, were responsible for establishing and maintaining these factories of death in which millions of Jews were murdered during the Holocaust,” he said.
“While it is true that Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Majdanek, Chełmno, Sobibór and Bełżec should be referred to as ‘Nazi’ or ‘German’ camps in occupied Poland, it is a serious mistake for Poland to seek to criminalise those who do not adhere to this practice.
“Having spent decades in the field of education, I deeply believe that this must be changed through a campaign of education, not criminalization.
“Poland’s new law is especially objectionable as it stifles any real confrontation with the most chilling aspect of the country’s wartime history – the extent to which local Poles were complicit in the destruction of their Jewish neighbors.”
He added: “Outstanding Polish scholars have made very clear in their meticulously researched writings that this was hardly an isolated phenomenon.
“Declaring that such literature is defamatory and that those who have produced it are engaged in criminal activity amounts to a whitewash of the historical record and must be thoroughly rejected.
“The passage of this law can only be seen as an act of historical obfuscation and an attack on democracy.”