In March, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau signed an agreement on “cooperation in the field of study visits of organized youth groups, after the Lapid government last August canceled the visits of Israeli schoolchildren to Poland that were scheduled for last September through November. Israel announced that the two sides had reached a dead-end regarding content and security. Lapid, who served as both PM and FM, said the visits had been canceled due to the Polish government’s demand to intervene in the content that would be presented to the participating youths.
Now an agreement has been reached and is only waiting to be ratified by the Knesset and the Polish Sejm (pronounced “same”).
In its opening, the agreement explains that among its concerns is: “recognizing that negative ethical and moral attitudes such as racism and xenophobia, among others, largely stem from a lack of knowledge and insufficient education among young generations and that at the same time, both countries have a shared historical legacy which provides a foundation for facilitating bilateral relations.”
Because Poland and Israel on paper are ideally suited to be close and fast allies, and so many Israelis come from a Polish background or countries that border Poland – we should be friends. Commercially, the two countries benefit from a robust trade: In 2021, Israel exported to Poland gas turbines, pesticides, and medicine worth $364 million. Poland exported to Israel in 2021 raw sugar and beef worth $989 million. Practically sister nations.
There’s only this pesky thing about the events of 1939-1945 in Poland which Yair Lapid, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, refused to forgive. His successor either didn’t read the small print or didn’t assign to it a similar value. The deal he signed with Poland will, in fact, expose Israeli schoolchildren to Poland’s version of what happened under six years of German occupation, and don’t be mistaken, it will be all about Polish heroism in the face of the Nazi stormtroopers.
The devil hides in Article 2 section 1 of the agreements, which states that the “program of educational study visits will include in particular … study visits to sites commemorating the Holocaust and other crimes of the World War II, and additional sites, of special importance, to each nation’s history.”
Article 2 section 2 specifies: “In order to implement the provisions of [section 1], the parties will recommend sites and places for study visits specified in Annex 1 to this Agreement, which will be regularly updated…”
Scroll down to Annex 1, and, behold, it looks as if those Israeli teens will be treated to the entire Polish revisionism industry that whitewashes any trace of responsibility on the part of so many thousands of Poles in turning in Jews to the Germans, of stealing Jewish property, and, after the war, of lynching the few concentration camp prisoners who returned to their homes. Here’s the list, it is staggering. I’m sure that some of these museums are engaged in commemorating accurately and reliably the German (and Soviet) atrocities against Polish citizens. Many of them are reportedly engaged in whitewashing the country’s bloody past of antisemitism and collaboration.
One such center of shameless revisionism is the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War II. It was inaugurated in 2016 in Markowa, to commemorate Josef and Wiktoria Ulma and their six small children who were murdered by the Nazis for harboring Jews. The Ulma family is among Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations, which includes 6,700 Poles. Mind you, in 1939 the Polish population, not counting Jews, was about 32 million. But museums like the Ulma Family in Markowa create the impression that the vast majority of Poles spent the war years in a tireless search for Jews they could rescue. This museum desecrates the memory of the Holocaust, any sense of historical accuracy, any notion of decency and responsibility, and above all, it desecrates the memory of the saintly Ulma family.
Prof. Jan Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian professor of history at the University of Ottawa, specializing in Jewish–Polish relations in German-occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust in Poland, told Haaretz on Monday: “This is the ‘Polish wish list’ of places that young Israelis should visit. It looks like the dream-come-true of Holocaust deniers.”
Prof. Havi Dreifuss, a historian of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe at the Department of Jewish History at Tel – Aviv University, told Haaretz that the list of sites included in the agreement is “scandalous,” and that “most of them are dubious at best and controversial at worst.” According to her, some of the sites on the list “ignore documented aspects of the involvement of the Poles in the murder of Jews,” and others “extol Poles who were involved up to their necks in the murder of Jews.”
This is the second attempt of a Netanyahu government to help erase Poland’s participation in the mass murder of Jews. In 2018, following an earlier attempt at reconciliation between the two countries, Yad Vashem published a harsh statement against the Netanyahu government. Senior Yad Vashem researchers claimed at the time that the joint statement published by the Prime Ministers of Poland and Israel distorted history, by minimizing the part of Poles in the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust while exaggerating beyond proportion their part in rescuing Jews. Relations between the countries reached a low point that year, following the enacting of Poland’s “Holocaust Law” which limited the ability of Poles to engage in examining the role of Poles in helping the Nazis in World War II, on penalty of fines and imprisonment. Later, the Polish government also enacted a law limiting the ability of Jews to claim Jewish property that remained in Poland after World War II.
In other words, the perfect implementation of the prophet Elijah’s cry: “Did you murder and inherit your victim?” (I Kings 21:19). Now with the help of the State of Israel.