Israel accuses Poland of 'denial' over Holocaust law

Shaul de Malach

Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahucriticized the bill, saying, "The law is baseless; I strongly oppose it".

Before World War Two, Poland was home to Europe's largest Jewish community of some 3.2 million.

Even though several death camps, including the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau, were built on Polish soil, Poles say they should be referred to as Nazi extermination camps or camps in occupied Poland, disassociating Poland from the Nazi crimes committed there. Most of the Jews that lived in Poland were killed by the Nazi occupiers. The book resulted in official apologies by the Polish state.

The bill must pass the Senate before being signed by the president, but Netanyahu made it clear that "that it must be changed". "The legislation will not help to continue exposing the historical truth and can impede the freedom of research", a spokesman said.

"Israel's opposition to the wording of the bill was expressed to him", the ministry said.

In a tweet, the second lady said she was "honored to help the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad with the recognition of two citizens of Israel for their extraordinary contributions in advancing the cause of Holocaust remembrance". "Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and Arbeit Macht Frei is not a Polish phrase", Morawiecki said later on Twitter.

The German phrase, which translates as "work sets you free", was set into the wrought iron gates at Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.

"The Warsaw Monument to the Ghetto Heroes is a tribute, landmark of the Jewish history, the history of Warsaw, but also in the wider sense to the history of human rights", she said. The capital Warsaw was razed to the ground in 1944 after a failed uprising in which 200,000 civilians died. The law forbids the use of the term "Polish death camps", or discussing or implying that Poland had a role in murdering Jews during the Holocaust. "The [deputy] Polish ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry this morning and heard the same exact things".

But the immediate concern in Israel is that the law is also an effort to whitewash some of the darker parts of Poland's wartime experience, in which a small minority of Poles either outed Jews trying to hide from the Germans, extorted money from them, or killed Jews themselves. "Among the Poles there were some who aided the Nazis".

"There have been incidences of genocide since, whether Rwanda or Biafra or Cambodia, so we haven't learned the lesson very well", Schudrich said. "The Poles threw stones at us and cursed us".

Princeton University Professor Jan Tomasz Gross, an expert on Polish compliance with the Holocaust, has previously stated that Poland's new stance on dissociating itself from the Holocaust is "a step back to the dark ages of anti-Semitism".

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