Poles cancel Holocaust ceremony after Israeli refusal of speech censorship

Polish officials appear to be testing a new law that criminalizes mentioning Polish complicity in the Holocaust, even before its constitutionality has been decided.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A joint Polish-Israeli Holocaust memorial ceremony was supposed to take place Monday in Radomsko, Poland, but Polish officials objected to parts of Kiryat Bialik Mayor Eli Dukorsky’s speech which referred to Polish bystanders and collaborators. Although he was also going to speak about those who helped Jews during the dark days of World War II, they asked him to remove the parts that the new Polish law criminalizes – the mention of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

Although the contentious Holocaust legislation is still being reviewed by the country’s constitutional tribunal and there are ongoing discussions with Israeli officials as to its wording, it appears Polish officials are resolved to send a message regarding their intent to enforce the law.

Kiryat Bialik is a small city in northern Israel that has several sister cities, among them Radomska, Poland, whose ghetto was liquidated during World War II. A group of Israeli high school students from Kiryat Bialik has been in Radomska since mid-December on a student exchange program, according to Polish media, and Dukorsky was going to address them as well as others in the ceremony.

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Before his speech, however, Dukorsky’s host, Radomsko Mayor Jaroslaw Ferenc, told him that officials wanted to review it, and when they requested it be censored, the mayor consulted with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which told him to refuse.

“We reject any attempt at censorship,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emanuel Nachshon told Israel’s Channel 2, adding, “We support the mayor’s right to speak out as he planned and not to skip a word, not even one letter.”

According to media reports, the Poles then cancelled the ceremony, and Dukorsky held a private commemoration for his students alone, giving his speech in full. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry contacted its counterpart in Poland over the incident.

In a statement sent to The Jerusalem Post, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said she regretted that the municipality had canceled the joint ceremony, but that “Israel is not prepared to compromise on historical facts” although “there is no intention to blame the entire Polish nation.”

Last week, the deputy director of Poland’s Foreign Ministry caused a minor media stir upon his visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, when he objected to an exhibit’s explanation that referred to “Polish police” guarding the entrance to the Lodz Ghetto along with Germans.