Polish Town Cancels Ceremony With Israeli Mayor Over Mention of Poles Murdering Jews

Mayor of Kiryat Bialik was asked to submit the text of his speech ahead of time; Polish officials nixed the part that dealt with the cases of Jews murdered by Poles

A view of the Ratusz in Radomsko, Poland.
Zobiektywem/Wikimedia Commons

The Radomsko municipality in Poland has canceled an annual ceremony involving a delegation from its sister city in Israel, Kiryat Bialik, because the Israeli mayor had planned to mention Jews who were murdered by Poles during the Holocaust in his speech.

The Kiryat Bialik municipality announced the cancellation on Monday, and Radomsko Mayor Jaroslaw Ferenc confirmed Polish media reports about the cancellation.

According to the Israeli city, Mayor Eli Dukorsky intended to speak at the ceremony as he does every year, but for the first time he was asked to submit the text of his speech to Radomsko officials in advance. Dukorsky planned to mention two cases of Jews murdered by Poles as well as instances of Polish Righteous Among the Nations who had saved Jews during the Holocaust. The Polish officials nixed the section of the address that dealt with the murder of the Jews.

Dukorsky insisted on delivering his speech as it was written, leading the Poles to cancel the ceremony. “We received the speech last week,” Ferenc said. “Unfortunately, some of the content was historically unproven.”

He said that among other things, Dukorsky’s speech included the claim that “Polish farmers killed 200,000 Jews during the war, and that of the six million Jews who were murdered, 200,000 were killed by Poles.”

“It was impossible for me to accept this,” he added.

The program for the event was changed at the last minute in light of the cancellation. Essentially, two ceremonies took place in Radomsko – one Polish and one Israeli. To protest the cancellation, the Israeli mayor read his speech in full at the Israeli ceremony.

The Polish and Israeli delegations met afterward, and according to Ferenc, “the atmosphere was positive.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that Dukorsky had discussed the issue with her. After consulting with Foreign Ministry officials, they decided that “Israel isn’t willing to compromise on historical facts. Recalling painful events from the Holocaust doesn’t mean we’re blaming the entire Polish people.”

“It’s important for us to continue the frank, open dialogue between the parties,” Hotovely added. “I’m sorry to hear that the Radomsko municipality in Poland canceled the joint ceremony.”

A delegation from Kiryat Bialik comes to Radomsko every year as part of its sister-city relationship. Both Polish and Israeli teenagers participate in the annual ceremony.

Last month the Polish parliament approved a new law that bars any mention of involvement by “the Polish people, nation or state” in Nazi crimes. The law states that it is forbidden to mitigate the responsibility of “the real perpetrators” of these crimes. Violating can be punished with up to three years’ imprisonment.

However, a few weeks later the Polish justice minister, who also serves as the country’s state prosecutor, said there would be no prosecution of violators until the fate of the law is decided by Poland’s constitutional court.