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Why Binyamin Netanyahu is fudging east European history

Israel’s national authority for research and commemoration of the Holocaust, is a staid institute, as befits its role, and usually shies away from political controversy. So a public announcement by its leading historians on July 5th, denouncing a joint statement by the prime ministers of Israel and Poland, which it said contained “grave errors and deceptions”, was highly unorthodox.

The statement had been issued a week earlier by Binyamin Netanyahu and Mateusz Morawiecki, to end a crisis in relations between the two countries caused by a new Polish law on the death camps in Poland. It had threatened fines or imprisonment for anyone who blames the Polish nation or state for their part in the Holocaust. Many historians viewed this law as an attempt by the conservative Polish government to revise history, by playing down the willing participation of many Polish citizens in the murder of 3m Polish Jews by Nazi Germany. After months of talks, the Polish government agreed to amend the law, deleting the criminal clauses. In return, Mr Netanyahu signed a statement saying that both countries “reject the actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis”. The statement also asserts that “the Polish government-in-exile created a mechanism of systematic help and support to Jewish people.”The historians of Yad Vashem argue that this flies in the face of documentation and historical research which “yield a totally different picture”. 

Historians say the Polish government-in-exile did little to aid Poland’s Jews and that the Polish resistance, though it fought the Germans, “not only failed to help Jews, but was also not infrequently actively involved in persecuting them.” Though there had been cases of Poles saving Jews, these were “relatively rare”.

Read entire article at The Economist