Israeli Mayor Refuses to Deliver Speech Censured Under Poland’s Holocaust Law

Stones lie on a Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial stone on occasion of the international Holocaust remembrance day in the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar, Germany, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
AP/Jens Meyer

TEL AVIV – A joint Israeli-Polish Holocaust remembrance ceremony in Poland was canceled after the country’s authorities tried to censor the speech of an Israeli mayor that apparently contained references to Polish participation in atrocities committed during the war. 

Kiryat Bialik Mayor Eli Dukorsky, the son of a Holocaust survivor who was heading the Israeli delegation, was meant to deliver his address on Monday along with the mayor of Radomsko, Kiryat Bialik’s Polish twin city. The Israeli delegation included some 200 Kiryat Bialik students and educators.

However, the Radomsko municipality asked to go over his speech in light of a new Polish law banning the attribution of crimes against humanity to Poland as a nation during the Holocaust. The speech contained personal accounts of Holocaust survivors that refer to Polish bystanders and collaborators, as well as to Poles who were deemed “Righteous Among the Nations” for helping their neighbors.

After reviewing the speech, Polish authorities requested that Dukorsky either leave out the parts that dealt with Poles who betrayed their Jewish neighbors or blame Ukrainians instead.

After consulting Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Dukorsky refused to deliver a censored version of his speech.

“I prepared a speech that included stories based on my mother’s personal experience during the Holocaust,” Dukorsky told Ynet. “We submitted the speech to be translated to Polish and received in response a demand to censor events that involved Poles and to write (instead) they involved Ukrainians and to write ‘German Nazis’ instead of ‘Nazis.’

“I refused to censor it. I’ve been in contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely. I’ve kept them abreast of the matter and received backup.”

Dukorsky’s speech also shared the personal account of Kiryat Bialik resident Luba Taubler, whose family was attacked by a Polish farmer. The speech read, “Luba was born and raised in Bystrzyca, where many Jews were slaughtered by Polish farmers assisting the Nazis.

“Her mother’s entire family was slaughtered and destroyed. Two hundred thousand Jews were murdered by Poles in that war, 200,000 of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices.

“Not all Poles collaborated with Nazi Germany. Many among them were Righteous Among the Nations who saved Jews by putting them up in their homes at risk to their own lives and to the lives of their families. But it should be said, too many Polish citizens collaborated with the Nazis and were partners in the darkness enveloping the world.”

The Foreign Ministry said it would not accept censorship.

“We reject any attempt at censorship,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon. “We support the mayor’s right to make his speech as planned and not omit any word, not even a single letter.”

The joint ceremony was consequently canceled but Dukorsky held an alternative ceremony with just the Israeli students in which he read his full speech.

A translation of the controversial law reads: “Whoever 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 … or other crimes against peace and humanity, or war crimes, or otherwise grossly diminishes the actual perpetrators thereof, shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.”

.