Israeli PM's statement after Polish anti-defamation amendment

The term "Polish death camps" is inappropriate, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday in Tel Aviv PAP/EPA

The term "Polish death camps" is inappropriate, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, commenting on Poland's earlier revocation of clauses penalising suggestions of Polish complicity in WW2 Nazi crimes from an anti-defamation act passed last January.

Speaking at a conference organised in response to the changes in the anti-defamation laws, Netanyahu expressed Israel's stance in the matter in the following words:

"It is clear to all that the Holocaust was an unprecedented crime perpetrated by Nazi Germany against the Jewish people, including all Poles of Jewish origin, and Poland has always expressed a great deal of understanding about the meaning of the Holocaust as the most tragic chapter in the Jewish national experience.

"We have always agreed that the term Polish concentration camps / extermination camps were fundamentally wrong and diminished the responsibility of the Germans for the establishment of these camps. The Polish government-in-exile during the war tried to stop these Nazi actions by raising awareness among Western allies of the systematic murder of Polish Jews.

"We respectfully remember the heroic deeds of many Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jews, and we reject attempts to blame Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators from different nations. The sad fact is that some people, regardless of their origin, religion or worldview, have revealed their darkest side during this period.

"Both governments strongly condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms and express their commitment to combat all its manifestations. Both governments express their opposition to anti-Polishism and to any other negative national stereotype and call for the reestablishment of a civilized and respectful dialogue in the public discourse."

Passed by the Polish parliament in January in response to media claims that Poles aided the Germans in the extermination of Jews during World War Two and the repeated use of the phrase "Polish death camps" to describe Nazi concentration camps in German-occupied Poland, the anti-defamation law introduced a three-year prison term for claims that Poles were complicit in Nazi crimes.

The act evoked hefty protests worldwide, especially by Israel and the US, who claimed the regulations hindered free debate about the Holocaust. On Wednesday, the Polish Sejm amended the act, repealing its Article 55a, which introduced the prison penalty