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Polish officials head to Israel for Holocaust law talks Open in fullscreen

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Polish officials head to Israel for Holocaust law talks

Poland passed a bill outlawing any reference to Nazi death camps as being Polish. [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 February, 2018

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The law, passed by Poland's senate this month, ignited an unprecedented diplomatic row and calls in Israel for the recall of Israel's ambassador in Warsaw.

A high-level delegation from the Polish government will travel to Israel on Wednesday to hear the country's objections to a controversial Holocaust law, the Israeli foreign ministry said.

The law, passed by Poland's senate this month, ignited an unprecedented diplomatic row and calls in Israel for the recall of Israel's ambassador in Warsaw.

The Polish bill 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 allegedly killing or giving up Jews to the Germans.

An Israeli foreign ministry statement said on Tuesday that the Polish team would be headed by deputy foreign minister Bartosz Cichocki.

The Israeli side will be led by foreign ministry director general Yuval Rotem, backed by historians, jurists, diplomats and a representative of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

"The purpose of the dialogue is to preserve the historical truth and prevent harm to the freedom of research and expression," the statement said.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the talks would "be the beginning of an attempt to find a way out of a situation that I think has been misunderstood by some people abroad." 

He told media talks would be conducted by lawyers from the Polish foreign and justice ministries as well as the IPN Institute of National Remembrance charged with prosecuting Nazi and communist-era crimes.

Poland wants "to begin a real, good, constructive dialogue with the Israeli side", Morawiecki added. 

Cichocki said the talks will not focus on changing the controversial Holocaust law as Poland's "constitutional system does not allow" negotiating legislation with a foreign country.

Poland's right-wing government has faced international criticism over the law, which was meant to protect Poland from false accusations of complicity in the Holocaust.

Israel sees it as a bid to deny the participation of individual Poles in killing Jews or handing them over to the Nazis.

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

Morawiecki 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 Binyamin Netanyahu called the remark "unacceptable" and tantamount to denying the Holocaust.

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