(January 29, 2018 / JNS) The lower house of the Polish Parliament passed a law this week banning the use of the term “Polish concentration camps,” in an attempt to lay blame for the Holocaust squarely on German Nazis and exonerate Poles from being complicit in the crimes that left more than 1 million Polish Jews dead during World War II.
The law’s passage was met with harsh rebuke across the Israeli political spectrum. During his cabinet meeting Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The law is baseless; I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”
Defending the law, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki posted on Twitter that the Auschwitz concentration camp “is the most bitter lesson on how evil ideologies can lead to hell on Earth. Jews, Poles, and all victims should be guardians of the memory of all who were murdered by German Nazis. Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (work will set you free) is not a Polish phrase.”
Morawiecki continued, “A gang of professional thugs enters a two-family house. They kill the first family almost entirely. They kill the parents of the second, torturing the kids. They loot and raze the house. Could one, in good conscience, say that the second family is guilty for the murder of the first?”
Member of Knesset Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, tweeted, “I strongly condemn the new law that was passed in Poland, which attempts to deny the involvement of many Polish citizens in the Holocaust. No Polish law will change history, Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered on its soil without them having met any German officer.”
Netanyahu and Morawiecki spoke Sunday evening and “agreed to immediately open a dialogue between staffs of the two countries, in order to try and reach an understanding over the legislation,” according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.
It is unclear whether the Israeli-Polish talks will lead to any changes in the legislation, which still needs to pass through the Polish Senate before becoming law. A Polish government spokesperson tweeted that the dialogue between the countries “will not concern sovereign decisions of the Polish parliament.”