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Yad Vashem slams recent Israeli-Polish leaders’ joint statement on Holocaust

The statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki “contains highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lays a wreath at a state ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust museum as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 12, 2018. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lays a wreath at a state ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust museum as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 12, 2018. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum strongly criticized the “highly problematic wording” of a recent joint statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, that sought to end a bitter diplomatic spat over Poland’s controversial Holocaust Law, which sought to criminalize anyone who suggested that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.

“A thorough review by Yad Vashem historians shows that the historical assertions, presented as unchallenged facts, in the joint statement contain grave errors and deceptions, and that the essence of the statute remains unchanged even after the repeal of the aforementioned sections, including the possibility of real harm to researchers, unimpeded research and the historical memory of the Holocaust,” the statement read.

On June 27, Netanyahu and Morawiecki sought to end the controversy surrounding the Holocaust law by issuing a joint statement together that was promoted in full-page advertisements in newspapers around the world. The joint statement condemned both anti-Semitism and “anti-Polonism,” while also appearing to establish a balance between Poles who helped Jews during the Holocaust and those who also persecuted Jews.

“We are honored to remember heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people,” their joint statement said.

Shortly afterwards, the Polish parliament voted to remove any criminal penalties from the law.

Yad Vashem said the Netanyahu-Morawiecki statement “contains highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field.”

The joint statement also “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.”

Additionally, the Yad Vashem statement pointed out that the Polish resistance largely not only “failed to help Jews, but was also not infrequently actively involved in persecuting them.”

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett joined Yad Vashem in its criticism of the Netanyahu-Morawiecki statement on Thursday, calling it a “disgrace,” and that it is “full of lies and harms the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust,” he said 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.”

Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid also said the statement was a “disgrace,” saying it is “a scandalous embarrassment to the memory of Holocaust victims.”

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