Holocaust survivors protest new Holocaust bill at Polish embassy in Tel Aviv
A number of Israeli Holocaust survivors joined protests outside the Polish embassy on Thursday, after President Sebastian Duda signed into law a controversial new bill which makes the attribution of crimes related to the Holocaust to Polish entities illegal.
Demonstrators were holding signs in both Hebrew and Polish as they demanded the scrapping of the law. "Shum hok," the Hebrew for "no law at all," one of the signs read.
The few dozens people who gathered at the embassy reportedly met with the Deputy Ambassador of Poland, whose job is to defend the legitimacy of the law. Among the speakers, an over 90 years old Polish-born Jew who was present during the Warsaw ghetto revolt also spoke.
READ: i24NEWS exclusive interview to Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich
In an escalation of tension lasting since International Holocaust Memorial Day, when the bill was first approved by the Polish Parliament, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett slammed the Polish government for not accommodating hid request to visit the country.
"The Government of Poland cancelled my visit because I mentioned the crimes of its people. I am honored," Bennett said. "I accepted an invitation to a dialogue based on truth, the Polish Government chose to avoid this truth," Bennett said in a statement slamming the Polish government.
"Yes the death camps in Poland were built and operated by the Germans, and we cannot allow them to evade responsibility for these actions. However, many Polish people all over the country chased, informed or actively took part in the murder of over 200,000 Jews during and after the Holocaust," Bennett added.
"The blood of Polish Jews cries from the ground and no law will silence it," concluded his statement.
Israel’s embassy in Poland has revealed 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.
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.
In an exclusive interview with i24NEWS, Poland’s chief rabbi Michael Schudrich said he was disappointed with the new legislation, signed into law by President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday, but also in the “horrifying” reactions of Israeli politicians to the Polish decision.
“Some of the things I’ve heard said out of Israel in the last week are also horrifying. These claims against Poland which simply are not true and clearly not helpful. And more than not helpful -- just wrong,” Schudrich said.
“The Poles passed the law because they didn’t want people saying falsehoods about their complicity. Theoretically the law does not ban the truth, it just bans lies,” Schudrich told i24NEWS, calling it “historical distortion” to imply that the Polish government acted against the Jews during World War II.
“The Polish government was not responsible because there was no Polish government. It was a conquered country, the government fled to London. The government in exile were working hand-in-hand with the Allies, they had nothing to do with the Germans,” Schudrich said.
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