Yehuda Bauer, one of the world's foremost Holocaust scholars, has said that Israel ‘collaborates’ with Holocaust distortion in eastern Europe for political reasons.
Professor Bauer made the claim while addressing a panel on July 15, hosted by University College London’s Centre for Holocaust Education.
The 94-year-old Israeli scholar said that the “identification of the Israeli government” was to humour “distortion of the Holocaust – especially in Poland – because of the political, economic and security relationship between Israel and Poland”.
Mr Bauer said that the joint statement of the Israeli and Polish Prime Ministers, the wording of which was negotiated by representatives dispatched to Poland by Israel in 2018 was “so gross, so dangerous” that it made the Israeli side “collaborators” in Holocaust distortion.
The joint statement between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was negotiated as an attempt to defuse a spat over a controversial Polish law on the Holocaust.
Mr Bauer noted for particular scorn that antisemitism was “defined as the same thing as anti-Polonism by the Jews.”
“Over 2,000 years of antisemitism equals the opposition of some Jews to the Poles who denounced them or attacked them, it is the same thing,” he criticised.
The statement provoked a rare rebuke from Yad Vashem, where Mr Bauer works as an advisor.
“Yad Vashem doesn’t normally react – it’s a non-political organisation, we do not engage in Israeli politics,” said Mr Bauer, “this was an exception.”
“We don’t accept distortion of the Holocaust,” Mr Bauer said. “What I am saying is not only directed against the Polish nationalists, but against the collaborators on the Israeli side as well.”
Mr Bauer said that the contemporary Polish government, along with others in eastern Europe, were engaging in Holocaust distortion by crafting historical narratives in which “truth and untruth mixed”.
Holocaust distortion he defined as “when you say yes it happened, it was terrible – but we didn’t do it. The Germans did it, only them, no-one else. Yes, there were a few bad eggs among us who collaborated, denounced Jews, participated, but the vast majority of us didn’t.”
Mr Bauer explained that without a large measure of collaboration “there could have been no Holocaust, because the Germans didn’t know how to differentiate between Jews and Lithuanians, Jews and Poles, Jews and Hungarians.”
Mr Bauer, who was born in Czechoslovakia, is one the world’s foremost Holocaust scholars and is currently a professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.