Foreign Ministry Demands ‘Clarification’ From Polish Embassy Over Holocaust Law
Foreign Ministry officials met with Pyotr Kozlowski, the deputy head of mission at the Polish embassy in Israel, Sunday to register the government’s anger at Poland’s new law criminalising anyone who “accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich.”
The law, signed into law by the Polish parliament last week, calls for fines and/or prison time for people accusing Poland of “crimes against peace and humanity, or war crimes, or otherwise grossly diminish(ing) the responsibility of the actual perpetrators thereof.”
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon added that the meeting with Kozlowski had two goals: To clarify the extent that the law’s effect would have on public discussion of the Holocaust in Poland, and to express the Israeli government’s “strong rejection of any attempt to rewrite history and to prevent honest, open debate about Poles’ participation in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.”
Following the meeting Kozlowski said he had listened to the Ministry’s concerns about the law and stressed that the point of the proposal was not to whitewash history, but rather to “safeguard the truth.”
But Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Israel Office, rejected Kozlowski’s explanation, but acknowledged that the issue is complicated because the text of the Polish law is technically correct.
“There were no Polish death camps. Poles didn’t build them, Poles didn’t run them, there were no Poles as guards in these camps,” Zuroff told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “There was no Polish state at the time. It’s not that the Poles were integrated into the mass murder mechanism like the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Estonians, the Croatians, the Ukrainians, the Belorussians. That didn’t happen in Poland. The Nazis murdered 3 million non-Jewish Poles! The Nazis considered them untnrmenchen!
When asked to compare the law to other attempts in eastern Europe to rewrite Holocaust history, Zuroff agreed that the measure is part of a “endemic” trend in former Communist countries to distort their roles in the murder of Jews during World War II.
“You’ve got to Understand: There is a big difference in Poland. This is not Lithuania, where (the local population were) part and parcel of the mass murder. The Germans devastated Poland. But Poland was a very anti-Semitism country before the Shoah… Many thousands of Poles played a role either in killing Jews or in turning Jews over to the Nazis. This is very well-documented, on a very large scale.
“This is a total whitewash of Polish complicity, Zuroff said.