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Israeli embassy in Poland hit by wave of anti-Semitism in wake of Holocaust bill

Candles burn by a memorial plaque at the Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, after the official remembrance ceremony.
AP Photo/Alik Keplicz
The law, which sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term, was intended to safeguard Poland’s image abroad

Israel’s embassy in Poland revealed Friday that a flood of anti-Semitism has poured in following the aftermath of a controversial bill passed by Poland’s senate earlier this week that criminalizes any accusations of complicity by Poland with Nazi Germany or Nazi Death Camps.

"In the last few days we could not help but notice a wave of anti-Semitic statements, reaching the Embassy through all channels of communication," the embassy said in a statement on its website. “Many of them targeted Ambassador Anna Azari personally,” it added.

“We have restrained ourselves from reaction, but we feel we should no more. Anti-Semitic statements are overflowing the internet channels in Poland, but they have become present on the mainstream media too, especially on (public broadcaster station) TVP Info.

The statement also added that "we would like to use this opportunity to repeat that Israel stands with Poland in using the proper term for the death camps – German Nazi camps."

The law, which sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term, was intended to safeguard Poland’s image abroad, but has instead drawn criticism from Israel, the US, EU and Ukraine.

Israeli authorities see one of the bill's provisions as an attempt to deny Polish participation in Nazi Germany's extermination of Jews and feared that it would open the door to prosecuting any Holocaust survivors who mention Poles being involved in war crimes.

"Israel views with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth. No law will change the facts," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Thursday.

The legislation was approved by the lower house of parliament on Friday, prompting a flurry of Israeli efforts to have the bill dropped, as well as a rebuke from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We have no tolerance for the distortion of the truth and rewriting history or denying the Holocaust," he said on Sunday.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki responded Thursday that "we understand the emotion coming out of Israel" but added that "spreading the truth about the Holocaust is not just Israel's job, but also Poland's."

"Our government condemns all crimes committed on Poland's soil during World War II, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators or victims. We will never restrict freedom of speech regarding the Holocaust."


A 'do or die' task

Friday he said that finding a way out of a diplomatic row with Israel and the US triggered by Warsaw's controversial bill was a "do or die moment" for him.

"This is a temporary weakening of relations with Israel and the USA but I hope that soon they will improve as we will explain our position," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a group of foreign journalists.

"As a prime minister this a do or die moment. We will be explaining. It's an important moment," said the leader of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government who took office after a cabinet reshuffle in December.

Morawiecki and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu have agreed to set up working groups to focus on Holocaust history in a bid to resolve the dispute.

Israel and Jewish groups across the globe are also concerned the bill could open the door to Holocaust survivors being prosecuted for their testimony should it concern the involvement of Poles in war crimes.

Morawiecki has ruled out any such possibility and insisted on Friday that the "law will not limit research at all."

- 'Can't back down' -

To take effect, the controversial bill still needs to be approved by President Andrzej Duda, who said earlier this week that Poland "absolutely can't back down, we have the right to defend the historical truth".

Morawiecki invited the foreign press along on Friday as he paid tribute to Poles who lost their lives helping Jews during World War II.

Poland opened a museum in 2016 on the exact spot in the southeastern village of Markowa where Nazis executed a young family for sheltering Jews.

The Ulma family were killed by German soldiers on March 24, 1944.

Jozef Ulma, his seven-month pregnant wife Wiktoria and their six young children were all executed, as were the eight Jews they had been harbouring.

Saving Jews carried the death penalty in Nazi-occupied Poland.

More than 6,700 Poles -- outnumbering any other nationality -- have been honored as "Righteous Among the Nations" by Israel's Yad Vashem Institute, a title given to non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Read more:

Poland's senate votes on Holocaust bill despite agreement with Israel

Polish PM defends Holocaust bill that upset Israel, Ukraine

(AFP contributed to this report)



Many poles are antisemites.

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