Israel has reacted with fury at proposed Polish legislation that would outlaw blaming Poland for crimes committed during the Holocaust.
The bill calls for prison time for anyone referring to ‘Polish death camps’ and makes it illegal for anyone to suggest Polish involvement in the horrors.
Poland’s government officially states that the vast majority of people in Poland acted heroically during Nazi Germany’s occupation.
However, the proposed bill has infuriated Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who announced that talks are to take place between the two countries to deal with the uproar.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned Poland’s deputy ambassador, Piotr Kozlowski, to express opposition to the bill.
It called the timing of the bill, that passed on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, “particularly surprising and unfortunate”.
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A statement from the ministry added: “The legislation will not help further the exposure of historical truth and may harm freedom of research, as well as prevent discussion of the historical message and legacy of World War II.”
The Pope has also appeared to address the issue indirectly, saying countries have a responsibility to fight anti-Semitism and the “virus of indifference” threatening to erase the memory of the Holocaust.
Pope Francis’ comments to an international conference did not mention the dispute, but spoke of his 2016 visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp which the Nazis set up in Poland during the Second World War.
He said he remembered “the roar of the deafening silence” that left room for only tears, prayer and requests for forgiveness.
He called for Christians and Jews to build a “common memory” of the Holocaust, saying: “It is our responsibility to hand it on in a dignified way to young generations.”
Polish authorities have insisted that they will not give in to Israel’s demands.
Beata Mazurek, spokeswoman for the ruling conservative-nationalist Law and Justice party, said “We have had enough of Poland and Poles being blamed for German crimes.”