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Yad Vashem slams Israel-Poland Holocaust declaration

(JTA) – Israel’s main state museum and research body on the Holocaust said July 5 that a joint statement by Israel and Poland on the genocide contained “grave errors and deceptions.” The Yad Vashem statement pertains to a declaration made last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, that acknowledges collaboration by some Poles during the Holocaust and the rescue of Jews by others. It also states that during the Holocaust, “unfortunately, the sad fact is that some people – regardless of their origin, religion or worldview – revealed their darkest side.” The published statement led to criticism from Israeli historians. Beyond the “outrageous insinuation that Jews also revealed ‘their darkest side at that time,’” Yad Vashem wrote, the Poles who revealed it “were not devoid of identity.”

The joint declaration was designed to end the diplomatic spat between Poland and Israel over a law passed in Poland’s parliament in February that criminalized blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. Israel protested the law and Poland’s government subsequently softened it, adding an amendment that scraps the three-year prison sentence prescribed in the original legislation.

Yad Vashem said last week that the amendment was “a positive development in the right direction.” But on July 5, the museum changed its position, citing “a thorough review by Yad Vashem historians” of the declaration, concluding that it “contains highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field.” The document’s wording “effectively supports a narrative that research has long since disproved, namely, that the Polish Government-in-Exile and its underground arms strove indefatigably – in occupied Poland and elsewhere – to thwart the extermination of Polish Jewry.”

CAP: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lays a wreath of flowers during the official state ceremony for the national Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem, on April 27, 2014. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO/Flash 90)

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