Leading Holocaust expert accuses Netanyahu of ‘betraying Six Million’

Prof. Jan Grabowski described the new agreement reached between Israel and Poland as “another victory” for those who cannot accept that their own country took part in the atrocities.

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

One of the world’s leading historians of the Nazi Holocaust in Poland has issued a scathing condemnation of the recent agreement between the Israeli and Polish governments to restore trips for Israeli youth to concentration camp and World War II sites in Poland, following a bilateral dispute that lasted for three years.

Writing for the Polish Jewish news outlet Jewish.pl on Monday, Prof. Jan Grabowski, a specialist on Polish-Jewish relations during the Nazi occupation who teaches at the University of Ottawa in Canada, described the agreement reached on March 30 as “another victory for the deniers — those who are unable to understand that, to some extent, their own nation took part in the genocide designed and carried out by the Germans.”

Grabowski’s concerns were echoed in a statement from Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem. Noting its worry that historical accuracy on the tours could be compromised by Poland’s insistence, enshrined in its laws, that collaboration between the Nazi occupiers and non-Jewish Poles in the extermination of the country’s three million Jews did not occur, Yad Vashem asserted that “the recent agreement to renew educational visits to Poland does not appear to dictate or limit their operation in this respect.”

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The statement observed that “the annex of the agreement contains a list of sites, compiled without Yad Vashem, which includes problematic sites that should not be visited in an educational context.” It ended with the warning that “Yad Vashem will not be involved in group visits to any site suspected of distorting the events of the Holocaust or presenting a historically inaccurate narrative.”

Several of the “problematic sites” mentioned by Yad Vashem were cited by Grabowski in his article. They include the “Museum of Cursed Soldiers” in Warsaw, which pays tribute to anti-communist military leaders who fought the Russian occupation after World War II, among them Józef Kuraś, known by the nom de guerre “Ogien,” who was accused of murdering Jews in Poland’s Podhale region. Last month, Kuraś was posthumously honored with a special commemorative coin issued by Poland’s National Bank.

“The question is whether Israeli youth will have to pay homage to Józef Kuraś, a cruel murderer of Jews and other ‘cursed’ who fought with equal willingness against the communists and defenseless Jewish children?” Grabowski wrote.

The historian also pointed to the inclusion of the “Museum of Remembrance of the Inhabitants of the Land of Oświęcim,” which is located near the Auschwitz concentration camp and which, Grabowski underlined, had once been depicted by former Prime Minister Beata Szydło as a “counterbalance” to the Auschwitz museum.

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Grabowski sharply condemned the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for signing up to the agreement.

“The question remains why the Israeli authorities agreed to this shameful diktat,” he declared. “Why did Netanyahu and his people decide to betray the memory of the six million murdered Jews? Is it about Poland’s vote at the UN? Is it about Polish support for Israel in the bosom of European organizations?”

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid — who served as both foreign minister and prime minister during the period when Israeli-Polish relations were at rock bottom — denounced the agreement as a “national disgrace.”

“The Poles have for years attempted through every means to hide and deny the part of many Poles in the extermination [of Jews in the Holocaust] — alongside those Righteous among the Nations who acted to save Jews,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “It is unacceptable that youth trips coming to learn of the Holocaust will learn the Polish narrative.”

Lapid added that, as the son of a Holocaust survivor, “I am ashamed of the Israeli government for giving up on its morals and principles.”

Responding to Lapid, Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch — whose department is jointly responsible with the Polish Education Ministry for the trips — accused the opposition leader of having been “responsible for destroying relations with Poland.”

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Kisch said that there had been “no change in the trips. Anything else is fake news.”

Over the last five years, Poland’s right-wing nationalist government has frequently been at loggerheads with Israel and international Jewish organizations, as well as recognized Holocaust scholars, over its bid to present the Holocaust as a joint Polish-Jewish tragedy and its support for legislation passed in 2018 that enables civil prosecution of historians who research the collaboration of Polish citizens with the Nazi authorities during the German occupation.

In 2021, further legislation effectively closed off restitution claims for Holocaust victims and their families. Relations between Warsaw and Jerusalem nosedived as a result.