Israeli and Polish governments criticised over 'Holocaust law'

The controversial bill will make it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust


Yad Vashem and Israel’s education minister have joined those criticising Benjamin Netanyahu and the Polish government as the row over a controversial Holocaust law escalates.

The Polish law, which made it illegal to accuse the country of complicity in the Holocaust, was amended last week, to drop criminal penalties.

A joint statement was issued by the Israeli Prime Minister and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, in a bid to heal the growing rift between the two nations.

Poland, which has long taken exception to phrases such as “Polish death camp”, has refused to drop the bill altogether, despite pressure from Israel and the United States.

Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial centre, issued a stinging criticism of the joint statement, saying it contained “grave errors and deceptions”.

It challenged a number of the statement’s assertions, including that the wartime Polish government-in-exile tried to stop the systematic murder of Polish Jews in Nazi death camps by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies.

It said: “Existing documentation and decades of historical research yield a totally different picture.”

“Much of the Polish resistance in its various movements not only failed to help the Jews, but was also not infrequently actively involved in persecuting them.”

Yad Vashem also said that even after the amendment, the law’s “essence” was the same, saying it would harm “the historical memory of the Holocaust.”

Naftali Bennett, the Israeli education minister, rejected the joint declaration, adding that the it was “void of any historical value”.

He said: “As education minister, responsible for the educational legacy of the Holocaust, I reject the joint statement completely.

“Nothing that it represents will be taught in our school system. I demand that the Prime Minister either withdraw his name from it, or bring it to the government for approval.”

Bennett said the joint statement was “a disgrace, full of lies and untruths, and a violation of the memories of the many Jews who were murdered by Poles.”

Critics of the bill say it will distort history and hamper dialogue about the Shoah.

On Thursday, the Polish government took out paid advertisements and published the joint statement, in English and Hebrew, in Israeli newspapers, prompting the backlash.

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