Prior to an event in Poland marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Rivlin declared that the law criminalizing statements about Poland’s complicity in the Holocuast cast a “deep cloud” over Israel-Poland ties.
President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Police Commissioner Roni Alshich, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen led Israel’s delegation to the 30th March of the Living Thursday, marking Holocaust Memorial Day with a symbolic march from Auschwitz to Birkenau.
Twelve thousand youths from 41 countries participated in the march.
Prior to the event, President Rivlin addressed Poland’s law criminalizing statements that Poland was complicit in the Holocuast, saying the law gives people the impression that the country can’t deal with it’s World War II-era activities
Meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda before both leaders participated in the March, Rivlin 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.
In February, Duda signed the controversial legislation, which calls for fines and/or prison time for people who accuse Poland of having committed “crimes against peace and humanity, or war crimes, diminishing the responsibility of the perpetrators.” The law sparked a protracted crisis between Warsaw and Jerusalem at the time, and played center stage at today’s meeting between the presidents.
“For us in Israel, Poland is the cradle of (a Jewish) culture that blossomed, (but is also) a place of destruction for the Jewish people. True, the Germans wanted to hurt us, but they also had helpers. The Holocaust law creates a serious crisis,” Rivlin said. “I had to tell you these things. We do not interfere with the legislation of other countries, but I could not help but convey to you the feelings of the entire Jewish people.
“The soil of Poland enabled the execution of Hitler’s horrific ideology of genocide and we see the waves of anti-Semitism that the law here now created. We live today as a free people in our country, but anti-Semitic feelings in Poland and throughout Europe are on the rise, and Holocaust denial is a statement that the Holocaust was justified,” Rivlin added.
Duda responded that the Holocaust was an unprecedented tragedy, but insisted that Poland’s record during the war was mixed.
“I am not afraid to say that there were people whose behavior should be condemned, but there were also people who we should be proud of.. (the law in question) is not intended to ban testimony, even testimonies that are hard to hear. I am sure that we will continue to cooperate in all areas, especially the security aspects, and I believe that in the construction project of a strong Poland we will be able to use the experience of the State of Israel and develop our cooperation in a way that will help the youth,” Dada said.