'Historical truth', Israeli dialogue group to be set up this week: official
PR dla Zagranicy
A working group for “historical truth” and dialogue with Israel is to be set up by the end of the week, Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcińska has said amid tensions over plans in Poland to penalise the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”.
The entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/C.Puisney/CC BY-SA 3.0
Deputies in the lower house of the Polish parliament recently green-lighted a new bill to combat the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” and other suggestions that Poland was complicit in Nazi German war crimes during World War II.
The bill was staunchly opposed by Israel.
Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari has said that Israel is aware that death camps were built on Polish territory by Nazi Germans, but that “the bill … does not mention a single word about who built the death camps”.
“It says there will be punishment for accusing Poles, the Polish state and nation. The way it is phrased makes it unclear for Israelis,” Azari said.
She said that the new law could mean that people could be punished for accusing a Pole of doing “something bad” during World War II might and that “Holocaust survivors would not be allowed to tell their stories”.
But Polish presidential aide Krzysztof Szczerski said a Polish group of experts needed to talk to Israeli representatives to clear up “certain misunderstandings” and explain the intention behind the law.
Szczerski said that Israel had interpreted the law to mean that individual Poles who were complicit in Nazi German war crimes would be considered representatives of the Polish nation, but in fact, the bill used legal language which stipulated that penalties would apply for “public lies against the Polish state and nation” as a whole.
Poland has long fought the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” in foreign media.
Polish Prosecutor Andrzej Pozorski said the expression “Polish death camps” suggests “that Poles share in the blame for crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II”.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said that there were no Polish concentration camps in World War II and that “camps were built on the territory of the Polish state ... by Germans, by Nazis”.
Duda added that “there were dishonourable people who would sell out their [Jewish] neighbours” to Nazi Germany in World War II, but stressed that those were individual cases of “despicable behaviour” which had nothing to do with Poland as a country or nation.
He also highlighted that some Poles sacrificed their own lives saving Jews.
A top official from the Polish prime minister’s office said the working group could be established on Thursday. (vb)