Poland, Israel in talks to resolve Holocaust row


Jerusalem (AFP)

Senior Polish and Israeli diplomats met in Jerusalem on Thursday in a bid to resolve differences over a controversial Holocaust law passed in Poland that has raised concerns in the Jewish state.

Deputy foreign minister Bartosz Cichocki led the Polish delegation, while Israeli foreign ministry director general Yuval Rotem headed his country's team.

"We must make sure that historical truths are preserved and that there is no restriction on freedom of research and speech," Rotem told journalists before the start of the meeting.

"Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is a matter beyond the bilateral relationship between Israel and Poland. It is a core issue cutting to the essence of the Jewish people."

Rotem said the Israelis would also raise "an observed increase in anti-Semitic manifestations" recently, but noted Poland's leadership coming out against them.

Cichocki said "we are committed to join our efforts to promote truth about the Holocaust and the Polish-Jewish centuries-old relationship."

"We are here open and ready to answer all the questions and clarify whatever is left to be clarified with regard to the anti-defamation law recently amended in Poland."

The law passed last month and which took effect Thursday ignited a diplomatic row and calls in the Jewish state for the recall of Israel's ambassador in Warsaw.

It sets fines or up to three years in jail for anyone ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich".

The main aim is to prevent people from erroneously describing Nazi German death camps in Poland, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, as Polish.

Israel has expressed deep concerns that the legislation could open the door to prosecuting Holocaust survivors for their testimony should it concern the involvement of individual Poles for killing or giving up Jews to the Germans.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki recently fuelled the dispute by saying that there were also "Jewish perpetrators" of the Holocaust, referring to Jews who served in police units in ghettos set up by the Nazis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the remark "unacceptable" and tantamount to denying the Holocaust.

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