The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum lashed the “highly problematic wording” of a joint statement published by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart on Thursday morning, which was aimed at patching up a political spat that divided the countries after Poland enacted, before rescinding, a controversial Holocaust Law which criminalized suggesting Poland was complicit in Nazi crimes
“The (Israeli-Polish) statement contains highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field,” the Yad Vashem statement began.
“The joint statement’s wording effectively supports a narrative that research has long since disproved, namely, that the Polish Government-in-Exile and its underground arms strove indefatigably—in occupied Poland and elsewhere—to thwart the extermination of Polish Jewry,” it said in response to the segment of the joint statement that read:
“The wartime Polish Government-in-Exile attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.”
“As such, they created a ‘mechanism of systematic help and support to Jewish people’ and even took vigorous action against Poles who betrayed Jews. Although the joint statement acknowledges that there were cases in which Poles committed cruelties against Jews, it also says that ‘numerous Poles’ risked their lives to rescue 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,” the Yad Vashem response says in an effort to debunk the joint statement.
Moreover, the museum highlights the crimes committed by Polish resistance movements against their fellow Jewish citizens.
“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.”
In the joint statement, Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “We are honored to remember heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.”
In the preceding paragraph, the statement says: "We acknowledge and condemn every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during the World War II."
Netanyahu also read out the statement shortly after the controversial clauses had been removed from the Polish law.
The team tasked with establishing contact with the Polish government to resolve the diplomatic crisis which ensued after Poland signed the law attempted to defend the joint statement, insisting that the chief historian from Yad Vashem itself had approved the wording.
"Yad Vashem's chief historian Professor Dina Porat has accompanied the process from its inception, and historical statements that appear in the declaration were approved by her,” the counter-statement said.
The team also praised Netanyahu and Morawiecki for the joint statement for ensuring free research on the Holocaust in Poland.
“The joint statement that was signed by the Polish government includes explicit reference to the maintenance of the ability to freely carry out research, and no law can or will prevent this in the future,” Netanyahu’s representatives said.
Bayit Yehudi Leader Naftali Bennett also joined the criticism against the joint statement.
“The joint statement by Israel with the Polish government is a disgrace and is full of lies and harms the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust,” Bennett wrote on Twitter.
“As education minister, Who is entrusted with imparting the legacy of the Holocaust, I reject it completely. It lacks factual and historical validity and will not be taught in the education system,” he promised.
“I demand that the prime minister annul the declaration or bring it to the government for approval.”