Historian Suggests Israeli PM Correct in Marking Nazi-Polish WWII Collaboration

© AFP 2023 / MENAHEM KAHANA / Israeli Prime minister Netanyahu prepares to deliver a statement at the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) in Jerusalem, ahead of UN the Security Council discussion on Hezbollah's tunnels into Israel, on December 19, 2018
Israeli Prime minister Netanyahu prepares to deliver a statement at the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) in Jerusalem, ahead of UN the Security Council discussion on Hezbollah's tunnels into Israel, on December 19, 2018 - Sputnik International
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire for comments he made in relation to the Holocaust whilst on a diplomatic visit to Poland.

Whilst speaking on the sidelines of the conference on the Middle East in Warsaw on Thursday, Netanhayu responded to a question as to whether he was willing to go along with Poland’s whitewashing of history in relation to the Holocaust. He replied that ‘Poles cooperated with the Nazis. I know the history and I don't whitewash it. I bring it up", adding, according to news outlet Haaretz, 'the Poles collaborated with the Nazis and I don't know anyone who was ever sued for such a statement".

It is now a crime in Poland to in any way attribute blame to the country for the genocide of Jews which took place across Europe by the Nazis during World War Two. A controversial law was passed last year, also known as the Holocaust Bill, which was deeply unpopular in Israel as it was considered that Poland was trying to suppress discussion of the killing of Jews by Poles during Nazi occupation of the country.

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It has now been reported that Polish authorities are investigating Netanyahu’s remarks. Sputnik spoke with the Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Holocaust historian Dr Efraim Zuroff and asked him whether Netanyahu was indeed unwise to make such comments on Polish soil.

Sputnik: Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire for his words regarding Poland’s role in the Holocaust; apparently the Polish government is investigating his remark as it is a criminal offence in Poland to blame the country for the Holocaust – what is your opinion, was Netanyahu unwise to make such comments?

Efraim Zuroff: First of all it was Netanyahu’s responsibility as the Prime Minister of the state of Israel, to speak out clearly and unequivocally about the role played by Poles in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

And I think this is atonement of sorts for signing the terrible agreement that was signed several months ago in the wake of the dispute with Poland over their – what they call the Holocaust bill – which initially criminalized the use of the term ‘polish death camps’ but also criminalized any attribution of Holocaust crimes to the Polish state and that is something completely different.

And the agreement that was signed by the Israeli government I have to say was quite shameful. Because it basically sticks to the Polish narrative and there were far fewer efforts to rescue Jews compared to the act of complicity of Poles in the murder of Jews which resulted in the murder of at least 200,000 Jews.

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Sputnik: Is there any significance in the timing of Netanyahu's words, is he appealing to his base prior to the Israeli elections?

Efraim Zuroff: I’m just wondering to myself why this statement was made now; the Polish Jews, the survivors and their children and grandchildren are the largest demographic group of survivors in Poland, and in Israel and in the Jewish world.

A lot of people in Israel are Polish survivors. Among the survivors living in Israel – there are some 200,000 – the largest group is of course Poles for the simple reason that Poland had the largest Jewish population.

This is a very, very important statement and I’m very happy that the Israeli Prime Minister spoke the truth. It was about time to be perfectly honest.

As I said the agreement signed by the Israeli government was simply shameful. Professor Yehuda Bauer, the most important Holocaust historian alive called it ‘treason’ and for good reason.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr Efraim Zuroff and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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