Middle East

'One cannot change history': Israel, Poland in row over Holocaust bill

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu slams a Polish law that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust. Source: AAP

Israeli leaders have angrily criticised legislation in Poland that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Poland on Saturday of denying history with a bill outlawing any reference to the Nazi death camps in the country as being Polish.

"The law is baseless. I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied," the premier said in a statement.

As a diplomatic row brewed on the day the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Poland's charge d'affaires to Israel has been summoned to the foreign ministry on Sunday, the ministry said.

Former prisoners attend a ceremony marking the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the German concentration camp Auschwitz in Brzezinka, Poland.
Former prisoners attend a ceremony marking the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the German concentration camp Auschwitz in Brzezinka, Poland.
AAP

A foreign ministry official told AFP the Polish bill was "an attempt to rewrite and falsify history, something that the Jewish people and Israel will never accept".

Poland's rightwing-dominated parliament on Friday adopted legislation that sets fines of a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as being Polish.

The measure is intended to apply to both Polish citizens and foreigners. It is expected to easily pass in the Senate before being signed by the president.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens, including three million Jews in the Holocaust. 

Polish officials routinely request corrections when global media or politicians describe as "Polish" former death camps such as Auschwitz set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, said it "opposes the new legislation passed by the Polish parliament, which is liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust".

But it added: "There is no doubt that the term 'Polish death camps' is a historical misrepresentation."

On a sterner tone, Israel's Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett instructed schools to dedicate two hours this week to study about the involvement of European nations in the Holocaust.

"This is a shameful disregard of the truth. It is a historic fact that many Poles aided in the murder of Jews, handed them in, abused them, and even killed Jews during and after the Holocaust," he said.

"It is also a historic fact that the Germans initiated, planned and built the work and death camps in Poland. That is the truth, and no law will rewrite it. These facts must be taught to the next generation."

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