Yad Vashem slams joint Israel-Poland Holocaust declaration

JTA

(JTA) — Israel’s main state museum and research body on the Holocaust said that a joint statement on the Holocaust by Israel and Poland contained “grave errors and deceptions.”

The statement by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem Thursday pertains to a declaration that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki made last week.

The declaration acknowledges collaboration by some Poles during the Holocaust and the rescue of Jews by others. It also states that during the Holocaust, “unfortunately, the sad fact is that some people – regardless of their origin, religion or worldview – revealed their darkest side.”

The declaration was published in newspapers in Israel on Thursday in Hebrew and English, and in Germany in German and the United Kingdom in English on the previous day, leading to criticism from opposition leaders and historians in Israel. The PKO Foundation, of Poland’s Bank Polski, paid for the ads. The bank has close ties to the government.

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Beyond the “outrageous insinuation that Jews also revealed ‘their darkest side at that time,’” Yad Vashem wrote, the Poles who revealed it “were not devoid of identity.”

The joint declaration was designed to end the diplomatic spat between Poland and Israel over a law passed in Poland’s parliament in January. It criminalized blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. Israel protested this law. Poland’s government subsequently softened it, adding an amendment that scraps the three-year prison sentence prescribed in the original legislation.

Yad Vashem’s chief historian, Dina Porat, accompanied the work of Polish and Israeli diplomats who hammered out the declaration finalizing the détente, Netanyahu said. Yad Vashem said last week that the amendment was ““a positive development in the right direction.”

But on Thursday, the museum apparently changed its position, citing “a thorough review by Yad Vashem historians” of the joint declaration published on June 27.

The joint declaration “contains highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field,” the statement Thursday said. The document’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,” read the statement by Yad Vashem.

Last week, Yad Vashem’s academic advisor, Yehuda Bauer, said during a radio interview that the joint declaration was “betrayal” by Israel of “the wonderful Polish liberals” who may be exposed to litigation in civil court under the law passed by the country’s right-wing government.

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