Poland and Israel issue joint declaration on future relationship following WWII row

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki Leszek Szymański / PAP

Joint statement calls for ‘a common responsibility to conduct free research, to promote understanding and to preserve the memory of the history of the Holocaust.’

Poland’s prime minister and his Israeli counterpart have issued a joint statement calling for a return to ‘civil and respectful dialogue” following the Polish government’s revision of a law making it illegal to suggest Polish complicity in Nazi war crimes. 

The six-point declaration signed by prime ministers Mateusz Morawiecki and Benjamin Netanyahu emphasised that contacts between Poland and Israel and between their societies "have been based on a well-grounded trust and understanding" and on cooperation in the international arena as well as on matters regarding preservation of memory and education of the Holocaust.

The announcement of the declaration came after Polish President Andrzej Duda signed into law an amendment to a January anti-defamation law. 

The amendment repeals a clause making it a prisonable offence to suggest Poland was complicit in Nazi crimes during World War Two. 

The act in its previous form met with criticism from Israel and the United States among other countries. 

The joint statement read: “Over the last thirty years, the contacts between our countries and societies have been based on a well-grounded trust and understanding. Israel and Poland are devoted, long-term friends and partners, cooperating closely with each other in the international arena, but also as regards the memory and education of the Holocaust. This cooperation has been permeated by a spirit of mutual respect for the identity and historical sensitivity, including the most tragic periods of our history.

“Following the conversation between Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Morawiecki, Israel welcomes the decision taken by the Polish government to establish the official Polish group dedicated to the dialogue with its Israeli partners on historical issues relating to the Holocaust. It is obvious that the Holocaust was an unprecedented crime, committed by Nazi Germany against the Jewish nation, including all Poles of Jewish origin. Poland has always expressed the highest understanding of the significance of the Holocaust as the most tragic part of the Jewish national experience.

“We believe that there is a common responsibility to conduct free research, to promote understanding and to preserve the memory of the history of the Holocaust. We have always agreed that the term “Polish concentration/death camps” is blatantly erroneous and diminishes the responsibility of Germans for establishing those camps.

“The wartime Polish Government-in-Exile attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.

“We acknowledge and condemn every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during the World War II.

“We are honored to remember heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.

“We reject the actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators of different nations. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that some people – regardless of their origin, religion or worldview – revealed their darkest side at that time. We acknowledge the fact that structures of the Polish underground State supervised by the Polish Government-in-Exile created a mechanism of systematic help and support to Jewish people, and its courts sentenced Poles for collaborating with the German occupation authorities, including for denouncing Jews.

“We support free and open historical expression and research on all aspects of the Holocaust so that it can be conducted without any fear of legal obstacles, including but not limited to students, teachers, researchers, journalists and – with all certainty the survivors and their families – who will not be subject to any legal charges for using the right to free speech and academic freedom with reference to the Holocaust. No law can and will change that.

“Both governments vehemently condemn all forms of anti-Semitism, and express their commitment to oppose any of its manifestations. Both governments also express their rejection of anti-Polonism and other negative national stereotypes. The governments of Poland and Israel call for a return to civil and respectful dialogue in the public discourse.”

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