TEL AVIV – Poland on Monday indicated that it may not make amendments to a bill that would make it illegal to blame Poland for any Holocaust-related crimes, despite a discussion between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, following Israeli outrage.
Netanyahu and Morawiecki on Sunday talked and “agreed to immediately open a dialogue between staffs of the two countries, in order to try and reach an understanding over the legislation,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office read.
However, the same evening Polish government spokesperson Joanna Kopcińska said that no interference in “sovereign decisions” would be allowed.
“Prime Minister @MorawieckiM talked today with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the current Polish-Israeli relations and historical conditions,” Kopcińska tweeted. “It was agreed that there will be a dialogue between the teams of both countries. However the conversation will not concern sovereign decisions of the Polish parliament.”
Prime Minister @MorawieckiM talked today with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the current Polish-Israeli relations and historical conditions. It was agreed that there will be a dialogue between the teams of both countries. However the conversation will not concern…
— Joanna Kopcińska (@j_kopcinska) January 28, 2018
Under the bill, anyone who blames Poland for Nazi crimes or uses phrases like “Polish death camps” can face prison time.
Netanyahu slammed the bill as “baseless” and a “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
“We will not accept any attempt whatsoever to rewrite history. We will accept no restriction on research into historical truth,” he said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Netanyahu added that during the week, Israel’s ambassador to Poland will have meetings to discuss the issue with “the entire Polish leadership, including the Prime Minister, the President and the Senate.”
“Every day, and especially on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was yesterday, we remember three things: One, our six million brothers and sisters who were exterminated in the Nazi horrors. Two, the price that all humanity paid for not taking strong and timely action against a murderous ideology. And third, the constant need to continue building the strength of the State of Israel against the fanatical regimes of our time,” the prime minister said.
“As opposed to the past, today we have a state of our own, a strong state with the ability to defend ourselves, by ourselves. In my view, this is the most important lesson of the Holocaust,” he added.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the bill disregarded historical fact and, in response, directed Israeli schools to devote two hours this week to learning about the involvement of other European nations – including Poland – in the Holocaust.
“This is a shameful disregard of the truth,” he said.
On Sunday, Morawiecki tweeted a fictitious anecdote to illustrate Poland’s position on the matter.
“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?” he wrote.
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?
— Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) January 28, 2018
A day earlier, he noted that the name Auschwitz and the infamous sign outside the death camp bearing the phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” are not Polish.
“Auschwitz 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,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter. “Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name and Arbeit Macht Frei is not a Polish phrase.”
The controversial bill stipulates that any individual who accuses Poland of being responsible for “crimes against peace and humanity” will be subject to a fine or prison sentence.
“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,” a translation of the bill reads.