Polish team heads to Israel for talks amid tensions

The Polish delegation will include journalist Bronisław Wildstein, historian Grzegorz Berendt and historian Mateusz Szpytma.

Berendt is a deputy director at the state-of-the-art World War II Museum in Gdańsk, northern Poland. Szpytma is a deputy head at the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which researches and prosecutes crimes against the Polish nation.

The Israeli side is headed by Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem as well as people from Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center – and historians, jurists and diplomats, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

The Polish team was invited to Israel after the countries’ prime ministers agreed to bilateral dialogue in January.

The prime ministers agreed dialogue was necessary after new Polish legislation regulating the IPN drew fierce criticism from Israel.

On Monday, Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz told told the Knesset that Poland is prepared to talk with Israel about its new law, Haaretz reported.
The legislation, signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda earlier this month, could see a jail term for anyone who accuses Poland of being complicit in the Holocaust.

In Poland, the new rules are seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” in reference to Nazi German-run extermination camps located in occupied Poland during World War II.

Poles say the phrase distorts history and implies Poland’s involvement in the Holocaust.

But critics have accused Poland of trying to whitewash and rewrite history. Commentators have said that Israel is concerned that the new law could mean penalties for anyone who criticises individual Poles’ role in the Holocaust.

Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari has said that in Israel the law “is seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors’ testimony”.

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