Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer slams Israel’s detente with Poland


(JTA) — A prominent researcher of the Holocaust said that Israel committed ”betrayal” when it ended its diplomatic row with Poland over the legal status there of some rhetoric on the genocide.

Prof. Yehuda Bauer, academic advisor to the Yad Vashem state museum on the Holocaust in Jerusalem, said this during a radio interview aired Saturday about Israel’s reaction to the passing of an amendment on June 27 in Poland. It removed criminal penalties from a law passed in January that criminalized blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes.

Yad Vashem said in a statement that the amendment was “a positive development in the right direction.”

But Bauer said of Polish officials in the interview: “They deceived us, they made fools of us, and the State of Israel prioritized diplomatic and trade relations with Poland over trifles like the Holocaust.”

The law from January triggered an unprecedented crisis in Polish-Israeli relations, that at one point featured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemning as “outrageous” a remark about the Holocaust by his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki. The dispute also unleashed anti-Polish sentiment in some Jewish circles, including in a video produced by the Ruderman Family Foundation that featured Jews saying “Polish Holocaust” in defiance of the law. The phrase is offensive to many in Poland, where the Nazis killed three million Polish Jews and another three million non-Jewish ones.

The two leaders reconciled following the amendment, releasing a joint statement acknowledging Polish collaboration as well as heroism during the Holocaust. It also condemned expressions of anti-Polish sentiment. Netanyahu thanked Yad Vashem’s chief historian Dina Porat for “accompanying the work” of a task team charged with resolving the dispute.

But, when asked about Israel’s positive reaction to the amendment, Bauer told the Israel Broadcasting Corp. in an interview aired Saturday: “I think it borders on betrayal. We in fact sealed their narrative for them, the story they tell themselves, which is an entirely mendacious story, this story became a law and we gave it our seal of approval.”

Later on in the interview, he said that by “mendacious story,” he meant what he regards as an exaggerated emphasis on the rescuers of Jews and too little attention to thousands of Poles who either killed Jews or turned them over the Nazis.

Bauer then added that the amendment still exposes theoretically people who blame Poles for Nazi crimes to lawsuits in civil court.

Israel’s public approval of the amendment passed by Poland’s right-wing government is therefore “betrayal, betrayal, betrayal, betrayal of the great Polish liberals out there, truly wonderful people, who are telling the truth, who are investigating,” Bauer said.

“It means they will blame the liberal Poles, they will accuse them as violating the honor of Poland, they will be fined and they will be bankrupt, stripped of their budgets, they are liable to lose their jobs,” Bauer said.

He also said in the same interview that the fact that the Israeli parliament has not recognized the Armenian genocide as such is also “betrayal.”

Recommended from JTA