Israel Cancels Fall Holocaust School Trips Over Dispute With Poland

Cancellations come amid failed talks over educational content and after the Education Ministry had instructed Israeli schools to nix all summer tours

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Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp, last April.
Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp, last April.Credit: BEATA ZAWRZEL/NurPhoto via AFP

The Education Ministry announced Sunday that it was cancelling organized Holocaust-education missions for Israeli teenagers to Poland this fall because the ministry and the Polish government could not agree on the educational content and security arrangements.

The ministry announced in June that it was cancelling the summer tours to Poland because of the Polish government’s attempts to interfere with the content of the programs, according to then-foreign minister Yair Lapid.

The latest statement published by the Education Ministry said that a delegation comprised of the Foreign Ministry, Education Ministry and the Shin Bet security service was sent to Warsaw to hold talks over “key issues,” specifically about the concerns over the educational content and security details for the trips. Discussions on the matters continued even after the delegation returned to Israel, but no agreement was reached.

“The ministries are prepared to renew negotiations at any time to find a suitable solution, as long as [there is] understanding to the Israeli needs on the issues,” the statement continued.

Yair Lapid, last week.Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Lapid said in June that the Poles had demanded that Israel must apply its so-called “Holocaust Law” – a law stipulating that those who assert that there was any Polish involvement in the Holocaust face prison time – to the content of the Israeli tours in the country.

“They [the Polish government] wanted to tell us what is allowed and what isn’t allowed to Israeli children traveling to Poland,” Lapid said. “We can’t agree to that.”

The Polish Foreign Ministry responded to Lapid’s remarks, with spokesperson Lukasz Jasina telling Haaretz at the time that “our experience is that Israeli youth return from these trips with negative feelings toward Poland and the Polish people,” adding that Israeli teens look at Poland through “the prism of the concentration camps” and do not know the “whole of Polish-Jewish relations for more than a thousand years.”

Jasina said that Poland wanted Israel to teach the Holocaust to Israeli youth “from a broader historical perspective,” which did not include “negative stereotypes of Poles and Poland.” Jasina continued, saying that “we want to increase the participation of Polish people, both in the preparation process of the groups for the trips and during the visits to memorial sites, including the participation of Polish guides.” Jasina added that he would like to include meetings between young people from both countries.

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