Yad Vashem's Chief Historian: We Can Live With Joint Israeli-Polish Position on Holocaust Law

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People visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 12, 2018.
People visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 12, 2018. Credit: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Yad Vashem’s chief historian said that she "can live with" the joint statement released by Poland and Israel regarding the Polish nation's responsibility for crimes committed against Jews during the Holocaust.

>> Yad Vashem Rebukes Netanyahu: Israel-Poland Holocaust Declaration Contains 'Grave Errors and Deceptions' ■ Netanyahu Says He Understands Criticism of Holocaust Declaration, 'Will Give It Expression'

On Thursday, historians from Yad Vashem said in a statement that the Israeli-Polish declaration contained a number of historical errors, and that it paves the way for legal battles against historians and other Holocaust researchers to continue – even if these will now be only civil and not criminal proceedings. Prof. Dina Porat, Yad Vashem’s senior historian who Netanyahu said had “accompanied the process of drafting the statement," did not sign the statement from Yad Vashem. 

On Sunday, Porat told Israeli media, "Would it have been better to not have a joint statement? Maybe if there was a possibility to fix it there is some things that are undoubtedly worth fixing and adding."

The statement from Yad Vashem emphasized that this is the official, and only official position of the institution and its scholars, and in her interview, Porat said that she advised the government in an informal capacity. The comments seem to contradict Netanyahu, who thanked the "historian from Yad Vashem" for her consultation.

The Yad Vashem statement was released after Prof. Yehuda Bauer, an Israel Prize-winning Holocaust historian formerly at Yad Vashem, said last week that the Israeli-Polish statement was a “betrayal” that “hurt the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust.”

In a radio interview, the 92-year-old said the backtracking on the law and the signing of a joint statement with Poland was “a very big mistake, bordering on betrayal.” Bauer said Israel had accepted the Polish narrative and “legitimized it,” even though it was a “completely mendacious story.” Bauer said the Poles “cheated us, twisted us around their finger and we agreed to it because to the State of Israel, economic, security and political ties are more important than a little matter like the Holocaust.”

Responding directly to him, Porat said Bauer should retract the statement.

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