In a piece for Israeli daily Haaretz, published as relations between Israel and Poland remained tense after new anti-defamation rules were recently signed into law in Warsaw, Tamir spoke of her meeting in Israel with Lech Kaczyński in 2008.
Tamir said Kaczyński told her that he understood Jews’ pain and urge not to forget the Holocaust but that Israel had forgiven Germany and "cynically" diverted blame to Poland.
“You send your high school students to Poland, they march in our streets, waving Israeli flags, exuding hatred and fear… and then they go to Berlin to have a good time, they sit in the cafes next to Gestapo (Nazi secret police) headquarters and feel good,” Kaczyński said, according to Tamir.
Kaczyński reportedly told Tamir that Israel was “rewriting history” and “deliberately blurring the difference between the horrific testimonies about Poles who murdered and massacred Jews, and the fact that the Polish people and its government never declared a war of annihilation on the Jews”.
“The annihilation policy was official German policy,” Kaczyński reportedly said, adding: “I respect and understand the pain of victims, but we [Poles] too were victims”.
Kaczyński invited Tamir to Warsaw, where she later spent three days considering World War II from a Polish perspective, which included lessons about the Polish underground, the destruction of Warsaw, and detention camps for Polish anti-Nazi activists.
Tamir said her Polish hosts asked Israel “to remember that [Poland] did not initiate the Holocaust”.
Polish officials also told her that they wanted Israeli “children who come to visit the camps to look at us differently, to meet Polish youth, to know that there is a different Poland”.
According to Tamir they also said: “We want you to treat us the way you do the Germans,” adding: “Who would have believed at the end of the war that we would beg to be treated like the Germans”.
Tamir said that, in the nearly ten years since Kaczyński visited her, “no meaningful change occurred” at the national level.
She stressed that she did not justify new Polish anti-defamation laws but called for Jews to look critically at their attitude toward Poland and Poles.
“I too often ask myself what I or we would have done under the conditions of a brutal occupation. Who would collaborate, who would fight, who would turn his head in order not to see,” Tamir said.
Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed a contested law which could impose a jail term for anyone who accuses Poland of being complicit in Nazi German crimes during World War II.
In Poland, the new rules are seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”, which many say implies the country's involvement in the Holocaust.
Poland has long fought the use of such phrases, which have often appeared in foreign media in relation to Nazi German-run extermination camps located in occupied Polish territory during World War II.
Poland’s ruling conservatives have said such phrases distort history.
But the new law has drawn criticism from the US, Ukraine and Israel.