The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem lashed the “highly problematic wording” of a joint statement published by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart on Thursday morning, which was aimed at patching up a political spat that divided the countries after Poland enacted, before rescinding, a controversial Holocaust Law which criminalized suggesting Poland was complicit in Nazi crimes
“The (Israeli-Polish) statement contains highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field,” the Yad Vashem statement began.
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“The joint statement’s wording effectively supports a narrative that research has long since disproved, namely, that the Polish Government-in-Exile and its underground arms strove indefatigably—in occupied Poland and elsewhere—to thwart the extermination of Polish Jewry,” it said in response to the segment of the joint statement that read:
“The wartime Polish Government-in-Exile attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.”
“As such, they created a ‘mechanism of systematic help and support to Jewish people’ and even took vigorous action against Poles who betrayed Jews. Although the joint statement acknowledges that there were cases in which Poles committed cruelties against Jews, it also says that ‘numerous Poles’ risked their lives to rescue Jews.
“The existing documentation and decades of historical research yield a totally different picture: the Polish Government-in-Exile, based in London, as well as the Delegatura (the representative organ of this Government in occupied Poland) did not act resolutely on behalf of Poland’s Jewish citizens at any point during the war,” the Yad Vashem response says in an effort to debunk the joint statement.
Moreover, the museum highlights the crimes committed by Polish resistance movements against their fellow Jewish citizens.
“Much of the Polish resistance in its various movements not only failed to help Jews, but was also not infrequently actively involved in persecuting them.”
In the joint statement, Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “We are honored to remember heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.”
In the preceding paragraph, the statement says: “We acknowledge and condemn every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during the World War II.”
Netanyahu also read out the statement shortly after the controversial clauses had been removed from the Polish law.
The team tasked with establishing contact with the Polish government to resolve the diplomatic crisis which ensued after Poland signed the law attempted to defend the joint statement, insisting that the chief historian from Yad Vashem itself had approved the wording.
“Yad Vashem’s chief historian Professor Dina Porat has accompanied the process from its inception, and historical statements that appear in the declaration were approved by her,” the counter-statement said.
The team also praised Netanyahu and Morawiecki for the joint statement for ensuring free research on the Holocaust in Poland.
“The joint statement that was signed by the Polish government includes explicit reference to the maintenance of the ability to freely carry out research, and no law can or will prevent this in the future,” Netanyahu’s representatives said.
Bayit Yehudi Leader Naftali Bennett also joined the criticism against the joint statement.
“The joint statement by Israel with the Polish government is a disgrace and is full of lies and harms the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust,” Bennett wrote on Twitter.
“As education minister, Who is entrusted with imparting the legacy of the Holocaust, I reject it completely. It lacks factual and historical validity and will not be taught in the education system,” he promised.
“I demand that the prime minister annul the declaration or bring it to the government for approval.”
The Joint Statement of Israel and Poland reads:
Over the last thirty years, the contacts between our countries and societies have been based on a well-grounded trust and understanding. Israel and Poland are devoted, long-term friends and partners, cooperating closely with each other in the international arena, but also as regards the memory and education of the Holocaust.
This cooperation has been permeated by a spirit of mutual respect, mutual respect for identity and historical sensitivity, including the most tragic periods of our history.
Following my conversation with Prime Minister Morawiecki, Israel welcomes the decision taken by the Polish government to establish the official Polish group dedicated to the dialogue with its Israeli partners on historical issues relating to the Holocaust.
It’s obvious that the Holocaust was an unprecedented crime, committed by Nazi Germany against the Jewish nation, including all Poles of Jewish origin.
Poland has always expressed the highest understanding of the significance of the Holocaust as the most tragic part of the Jewish national experience.
We believe that there is a common responsibility to conduct free research, to promote understanding and to preserve the memory of the history of the Holocaust.
We have always agreed that the term “Polish concentration/death camps” is blatantly erroneous and diminishes the responsibility of Germany for establishing those camps.
The wartime Polish government-in-exile attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies of the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.
We acknowledge and condemn every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during World War II.
We are honored to remember heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.
We reject the actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators of different nations.
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that some people – regardless of their origin, religion or worldview – revealed their darkest side at that time.
We acknowledge the fact that structures of the Polish underground state supervised by the Polish government-in-exile created a mechanism of systematic help and support to Jewish people, and its courts sentenced Poles for collaborating with the German occupation authorities, including for denouncing Jews.
We support free and open historical expression and research on all aspects of the Holocaust so that it can be conducted without any fear of legal obstacles, including but not limited to students, teachers, researchers, journalists and of course, the survivors and their families, who will not be subjected to any legal charges for exercising the right to free speech and academic freedom with reference to the Holocaust.
No law can and no law will change that.
Both governments vehemently condemn all forms of anti-Semitism and express their commitment to oppose any of its manifestations.
Both governments also express their rejection of anti-Polonism and other negative national stereotypes.
The governments of Poland and Israel call for a return to civil and respectful dialogue in the public discourse.
By Ynet News