Israel and Poland Reaffirm Ties in Shadow of Battle Over Holocaust Memory

President Herzog says that Israel and Poland will reinstate their ambassadors

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Polish President Andrzej Duda in Madrid, last week.
Polish President Andrzej Duda in Madrid, last week.Credit: Bertrand Guay/AP

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog spoke by phone on Monday with Polish President Andrzej Duda and discussed rehabilitating ties between the two countries that have been under strain in recent years, particularly over the Polish government’s portrayal of the Holocaust of Polish Jewry.

Herzog said that the two heads of state agreed that the diplomatic relations “would be restored to their proper course” and that the countries would appoint respective ambassadors, after they had been withdrawn over the tension. A new Israeli ambassador to Warsaw, who has already been selected, is to present his diplomatic credentials in Poland over the next several days, a statement from Herzog’s office said. Poland is also expected to appoint a new ambassador to Israel soon.

Last month, Israel's Education Ministry decided to cancel organized Holocaust history high school trips to Poland, which Foreign Minister (and now Prime Minister) Yair Lapid said was due to Polish government interference in the content of the programming that the students would receive.

President Isaac Herzog in the President's House, this month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The Poles had sought to apply a Polish law to the program content that bans claims that the Polish people was to blame for the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Poland, Lapid said last month. Earlier, the Israeli Education Ministry also reported that it was cancelling youth missions to Poland scheduled for July and August, following a dispute with the Polish government over security.

Haaretz learned that the dispute related to the carrying of weapons by Israeli security personnel on Polish soil. The ministry instructed schools to cancel all summer trips, for which 7,000 pupils had already signed up.

With regard to the program content, Israel said that it had agreed to some of the Polish demands but drew the line at the Polish request to get involved in the content about the Polish people’s role in the Holocaust, as well as the Red Army’s part in defeating the Nazis.

Poland passed legislation that outlawed blaming Poland as a nation for Holocaust crimes committed by Nazi Germany. The law originally included prison terms of up to three years for falsely attributing German crimes to Poland. It was later amended to remove the criminal provisions.

A year ago, Poland’s parliament also approved a law that placed limits on the ability of Jews to seek restoration of property they owned before the outbreak of World War II that was seized by the Nazis and later nationalized under communist rule. That law sparked another diplomatic crisis with Israel.

With reporting by Ofer Aderet, Shira Kadari-Ovadia, Jonathan Lis and The Associated Press.

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