An adviser to Poland’s president has criticised Israel’s opposition to a law criminalising some statements about Polish actions in the Second World War.
The reaction stemmed from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust,” said the adviser, Professor Andrzej Zybertowicz.
Israel’s reaction to the new law was anti-Polish, and showed it was clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust, he said.
“The ‘religion’ of the Holocaust has become a symbolic shield for that country, which is used by Israel to create for itself a special position in many places in the world. A shield which is meant to protect Israel against any criticism,” said the Nicolaus Copernicus University sociology professor.
His remarks follow open expressions of anti-Semitism that surfaced online and in some government-controlled media when Israeli officials objected to the bill form of the law.
The law outlaws public statements that falsely and intentionally attribute Nazi crimes to German-occupied Poland.
Polish president Andrzej Duda and other government officials said the law was needed because Poles are depicted sometimes as collaborators or complicit in the Nazi genocide.
They cite the expression “Polish death camps” as shorthand for the concentration camps and gas chambers on German-occupied soil as an example.
In Israel, home to Holocaust scholars and families of survivors with roots in Poland, some fear the Polish speech law will allow the government to whitewash the role some individual Poles had in the deaths of the occupied country’s Jews. The law allows for prison terms of up to three years.
Mr Duda signed the law on Tuesday but asked the country’s constitutional court to review it in a nod to the critics.
Poland’s government went into exile abroad when German forces took over in 1939, while an underground army at home resisted the Nazis.
Poles made up the largest group of victims at the Nazi-run camps although there were cases of Poles who identified Jews to the Germans or killed them directly.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said she will not get involved or interfere with Poland’s law because “as Germans, we are responsible for the things that happened during the Holocaust.”