JERUSALEM — Israel’s education minister said Monday that Poland cancelled his visit to the country amid uproar over proposed Polish legislation that would outlaw blaming Poland for crimes committed during the Holocaust.
“The blood of Polish Jews cries from the ground, and no law will silence it,” Naftali Bennett said in a statement late Monday. “The government of Poland cancelled my visit, because I mentioned the crimes of its people. I am honored.”
The cancellation of Bennett’s trip scheduled for Wednesday came several days after Israel’s Foreign Ministry requested the postponement of the planned visit of the head of the Polish National Security Council that was set to take place in coming weeks.
The bill proposed by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice Party calls for fines and prison sentences of up to three years for purposely trying to attribute the crimes Nazi Germany carried out during the nearly six-year occupation to the Polish nation as a whole.
Poland’s government has argued that it is fighting against the use of phrases like “Polish death camps” to refer to the camps Nazi Germany operated on Polish soil. Poland has also sought to highlight its own suffering at the hands of the Nazis.
The bill sparked outrage in Israel, raising tensions with a close ally.
Israel sees it as an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.
“Yes, the death camps in Poland were built and operated by the Germans, and we cannot allow them to evade responsibility for these actions,” Bennett said. “However, many Polish people, all over the country, chased, informed or actively took part in the murder of over 200,000 Jews during, and after, the Holocaust. Only a few thousand people, Righteous Among the Nations, risked themselves to save Jews.”
The Nazis and their collaborators systematically murdered six million Jews, wiping out a third of world Jewry.