Yad Vashem Hails Backtracking on Polish Holocaust Law

Israel’s official Holocaust center has previously been critical of the law, saying that it was meant to 'obscure the historical truth'

A group of Israeli soldiers visits the Hall of Names in the Holocaust History Museum at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem ahead of the Israeli annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 10, 2018.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center on Wednesday said it welcomed Poland’s decision to amend its law that criminalized accusing Poland of complicity in Nazi war crimes as “a positive development.”

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“Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, believes that the current announcement of the Polish government's intention to modify the controversial amendment to the National Remembrance law passed earlier this year, is a positive development in the right direction,” the group said, in a statement.

Israel’s official Holocaust center has previously been critical of the law, saying shortly after the passage of the law in January that it was meant to “obscure the historical truth regarding the aid the Germans received from the local Polish community during the Holocaust.”

In Israel, politicians widely condemned the law, both before and after the recent announcement.

Yair Lapid, chairman of Israel’s Yesh Atid party, said of Wednesday's announcement: “The amendment of the Polish law is a bad joke, and this law should be erased from the laws of Poland. Annul the scandalous law and ask forgiveness from those who perished.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously criticized the passage of the bill back in Feburary. “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” he said in a statement.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said after the recent reexamination of the law, he hoped that it result in improved relations with Israel, which had been effected by this legislation.

Elsewhere in the Jewish world, the announcement was viewed in a more cautious way.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder hailed the move, but urged further examination of the “inherently flawed” legislation.

“The law as it stands now stifles any real discussion of the extent to which local Poles were complicit in the annihilation of their Jewish neighbors during the German occupation. It sets a dangerous precedent and is contrary to the values Poland has worked to uphold and promote,” he said in a statement.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, echoed the sentiment.“This step is a long overdue effort by the Polish prime minister and parliament to step back from the precipice of implementing this reckless law on speech about the Holocaust as it is currently written.

"We urge the upper chamber of Poland’s parliament to urgently follow suit, and then for Polish President Duda to swiftly sign the updated legislation into law."