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Israel criticises Polish Holocaust law

New bill will make it illegal to describe Nazi death camps as Polish

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has led criticism of a proposed bill that would make it illegal to describe the Nazi death camps as Polish.

    The Polish government is expected to pass an amendment to existing law meaning anyone who suggests the country was responsible for Nazi crimes could face a prison term.

    Israeli officials are opposed to the proposed law, suggesting it will limit discussion of Polish involvement in the Holocaust.

    "I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied," said Prime Minister Netanyahu in a statement.

    "This is a shameful disregard of the truth," said Israel's Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett. 

    "It is a historic fact that many Poles aided in the murder of Jews, handed them in, abused them, and even killed Jews during and after the Holocaust."

    But the amendment is expected to pass in the Polish Senate before being signed by the president.

    Israel's Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem has summoned the Polish charge d'affaires to Israel for a meeting.

    Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany during World War Two. 

    Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust.

    The country has long objected to the use of phrases like "Polish death camps", which suggest the Polish state in some way shared responsibility for camps such as Auschwitz.

    The Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Israel has said it will " continue to support research aimed at exposing the complex truth regarding the attitude of the Polish population towards the Jews during the Holocaust."

    The Polish government claims the bill was not intended to limit freedom to research or discuss the Holocaust.

    Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted that "Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and Arbeit Macht Frei is not a Polish phrase".

    Reacting to Poland’s new Holocaust law, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said:“The resurgence of a vibrant Jewish community in today’s Poland is one of the miracles of our time, and our appreciation for today’s Polish Government and its recent predecessors has been fulsome. However, that in no way excuses the responsibility for Poland’s past and that is Poland’s role in the Holocaust.

    "A new law cannot change or expunge history; such an attempt is an affront to the memory of the millions of victims, Poles, Jews and Polish Jews. We propose that the Polish government call for a commission of experts, to once and for all, put the historical record straight; to what extent Polish citizens collaborated with the Nazis and to what extent they helped save Jews during the Holocaust.”

     

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