Israel, Poland agree to jointly formulate Holocaust bill

Netanyahu and Morawiecki agreed that teams from the two countries would try to reach understandings regarding a Polish law that bans phrases such as “Polish death camps.”

By: World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday spoke by telephone with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in wake of the bill recently passed by the Polish parliament that prohibits any references to Polish involvement in the Holocaust. The move angered Israelis across the political spectrum and elicited much criticism from groups around the world.

The two leaders agreed that teams from both countries would open an immediate dialogue in order to try and reach understandings regarding the legislation.

The bill, passed by the lower house of the Polish parliament on Friday, specifies prison time for those who ‘defame’ Poland by using phrases such as “Polish death camps” when referring to Auschwitz and other Nazi-run death camps located in Poland during World War II.

The bill still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and President Andrzej Duda before becoming law.

Netanyahu rejected the bill as “baseless.” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin slammed it as an attempt at “fake history.”

‘Surprising and unfortunate’

Piotr Kozlowski, the deputy ambassador of Poland in Israel, was summoned on Sunday to the Foreign Ministry for discussion with the deputy director-general of the European Division and the head of the Diaspora Division.

The timing of the bill, on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was marked on Saturday, was “particularly surprising and unfortunate,” the Foreign Ministry stated.

“The legislation will not help further the exposure of historical truth and may harm freedom of research, as well as prevent discussion of the historical message and legacy of World War II,” the statement said, adding that Israel expects the Polish government to change the wording of the bill before its final adoption and to conduct a dialogue with Israel on the subject.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting, Kozlowski said the intent of the legislation was not to “whitewash” history. It is already a crime in Poland to deny that the Holocaust happened.

“It is to safeguard it, to safeguard the truth about the Holocaust and to prevent its distortion,” he said of the proposed legislation.

Netanyahu and Morawiecki spoke later in the day and agreed to discuss the bill’s wording.

Two families in the same house?

However, Polish legislators said that they would oppose any changing of the bill’s text.

“We will not change any provisions in the bill,” said Beata Mazurek, spokeswoman for the ruling conservative-nationalist Law and Justice party, “We have had enough of Poland and Poles being blamed for German crimes.”

The Polish prime minister on Sunday night compared Poles and Jews to two families who lived in the same house, Poland, before the war and were both victimized by the Nazis.

In a post on Twitter, Morawiecki said: “A gang of professional thugs enters a two-family house. They kill the first family almost entirely. They kill the parents of the second, torturing the kids. They loot and raze the house. Could one, in good conscience, say that the second family is guilty for the murder of the first?”

Princeton University Professor Jan Tomasz Gross, an expert on Polish compliance with the Holocaust, has previously stated that Poland’s new stance on dissociating itself from the Holocaust is “a step back to the dark ages of anti-Semitism.”

The Polish-born sociologist and historian has stoked controversy in Poland with works that expose dark chapters in a wartime history that Poles are otherwise proud of thanks to a strong resistance by Poles to Nazi Germany.

The latest uproar surrounding Gross began after he asserted in 2015 that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the war. Though the exact numbers are difficult to measure, Gross said evidence indicates that Poles killed up to 30,000 Germans during the war, at most, while they probably killed 70,000 to 90,000 Jews, but possibly more.

AP contributed to this report.