Polish nationalists seek probe of Israeli president’s Holocaust remarks

Did Israel’s president break the law in Poland when he said that “we cannot deny that Poland and Poles had a hand” in the Holocaust?

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

A Polish nationalist group has asked prosecutors Tuesday to investigate whether Israel’s president broke a new law that criminalizes blaming Poland for the Holocaust crimes of Nazi Germany.

The National Movement said it thinks Israeli President Reuven Rivlin might have violated the new Holocaust speech law during a visit to Auschwitz last week.

At issue in the group’s complaint are comments in which Rivlin reportedly told Polish President Andrzej Duda that Poland allowed the implementation of Germany’s genocide, National Movement Vice President Krzysztof Bosak said.

Meeting with Duda before both leaders participated in the March, Rivlin reportedly criticized Warsaw for trying to re-write history and said the measure had cast a “deep cloud” over Israel-Poland ties, which both leaders agreed are otherwise excellent.

“It is not for nothing that we call the extermination camps the extermination camps of the Nazis and their collaborators. There is no doubt that there were many Poles who fought the Nazi regime, but we cannot deny that Poland and Poles had a hand in the extermination,” Rivlin told Duda.

The alleged comments during commemorations at Auschwitz last Thursday were carried in Israeli media and were not part of Rivlin’s public remarks.

Bosak said it would be unacceptable if Rivlin asserted that Poland bears any responsibility for the Holocaust. While the National Movement understands that diplomatic immunity protects the Israeli president from prosecution, it wants the nature of the president’s remarks to be clarified, he said.

“We are interested in the truth of what he said,” Bosak said. “It is important for us.”

He also said his group was seeking to test the law, which is not being enforced in practice after sparking a dispute with Israel.

The law, which formally took effect in March, criminalizes blaming Poland for crimes committed by Nazi German forces during their wartime occupation. The Polish government says its aim is to prevent Poland from unfairly being blamed for crimes that Germany committed on occupied Polish soil.

Israel, however, fears the true intent is to whitewash Polish crimes by suppressing discussion of Poles who helped the Germans kill Jews during the wartime occupation.