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Poland and Israel: Hot Debate Over the Holocaust

Poland and Israel: Hot Debate Over the Holocaust
Two of America's top allies are in a heated and highly emotional debate with one another over details of the Holocaust, with unprecedented accusations being leveled by Poland and Israel against one another.

Neither of the two parties denies that the mass, systematic killing of millions of Jews by the Nazis did in fact occur, but they disagree over the level of complicity that non-German actors had in this genocidal tragedy. The dispute began late last month when Warsaw passed legislation criminalizing the term "Polish death camps" when describing Nazi killing facilities such as the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau or Treblinka that the Germans set up on the territory of occupied Poland, which also included a clause banning references to the "Polish Nation" for carrying out the Holocaust.

Israel immediately protested this decision on the grounds that Tel Aviv believes that it amounts to historical revisionism by criminalizing any conversation about the documented proof that some ethnic Poles collaborated with the German killers by either directly working in the concentration camps themselves or selling out their Jewish neighbors to the Nazis. Poland painfully recognizes this truth but asserts that it is unfair to blame the "Polish Nation" in general for the crimes of individuals committing these heinous acts in pursuit of their own interests and unrepresentative whatsoever of the Polish people or their government-in-exile. Regrettably, the spat between these two parties has taken on epic proportions by becoming an all-out international scandal that's grown increasingly nastier by the day, and both sides seem to have gone too far to back down at this point.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the Polish law as epitomizing "the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust", though his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki quickly shot back and wrote on Twitter that "Jews, Poles, and all victims should be guardians of the memory of all who were murdered by German Nazis. Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and ‘Arbeit Macht Frei' is not a Polish phrase." Escalating tensions, a Polish presidential advisor recently said that Israel  is "clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust" just days before the premier said in Munich that "there were Jewish perpetrators" of this genocide too. Polish "grey cardinal" Jaroslaw Kaczynski earlier denied that his government was anti-Semitic and forcefully condemned this hateful ideology in all of its manifestations, but Israel and a rising number of Jews in general don't believe him.

To discuss this very sensitive topic in more detail, we are joined by Michal Mazur, Polish political commentator from Krakow and contributing writer for the online journal, and Casey Washer, from Ohio, who teaches Jewish history and Hebrew at a Jewish private school and just returned in January from a trip to Poland and Israel.

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