May 20, 2019

Yad Vashem Slams Joint Israel-Poland Statement on Revised Holocaust Law

Poland’s heavily criticized law criminalizing speech about Poland’s role in the Holocaust was revised on June 27 to rescind jail time, prompting a joint declaration of victory from Israel and Poland. However, Yad Vashem slammed the joint declaration as revisionist history.

The joint statement, issued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, stated “that the term ‘Polish concentration/death camps’ is blatantly erroneous and diminishes the responsibility of Germans for establishing those camps.”

Yad Vashem agreed that it was inaccurate to use such a term, but they were irked with the joint statement’s claim Poland’s Government-in-Exile and various underground Poles attempted to help the Jews.

“The existing documentation and decades of historical research yield a totally different picture: the Polish Government-in-Exile, based in London, as well as the Delegatura (the representative organ of this Government in occupied Poland) did not act resolutely on behalf of Poland’s Jewish citizens at any point during the war,” Yad Vashem said in a statement on their website. “Much of the Polish resistance in its various movements not only failed to help Jews, but was also not infrequently actively involved in persecuting them.”

The statement added that Polish aid to the Jews was “relatively rare,” whereas it was quite common for there to be attacks against Jews in Poland. Those that did try to help Jews were just as scared their fellow Poles as they were of the Nazis.

The statement concluded that it wasn’t enough to only repeal the criminal statute.

“The repeal, however, reverses the explicit exception that was made for academic research and artistic endeavor in the wording of the amendment,” the statement read. “Other sections that remain unchanged make it actionable under civil law to impugn the good name of the Polish State and the Polish Nation.”

Yad Vashem concluded, “Our stance in principle is that any attempt to limit academic and public discourse on historical issues to a single unchangeable national narrative by means of legislation and punishment is inappropriate and constitutes a material infringement of research.”