The Polish “Holocaust law” was seemingly felt by Israeli students in Poland on Monday when a joint Israeli-Polish Holocaust remembrance ceremony was canceled after Polish authorities tried to censor the speech of an Israeli mayor.
Kiryat Bialik mayor Eli Dukorsky, the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor, had been set to address a delegation of students from one of his city’s schools who were visiting Poland. His speech included personal accounts of Holocaust survivors and references to Polish bystanders and collaborators, as well as to Righteous Among the Nations.
But before he delivered his speech, the mayor of Kiryat Bialik’s Polish “twin city” Radomsko, with whom he was to participate in a joint ceremony, told him that local authorities had asked to review the speech.
The Israeli mayor obliged the request and the Polish mayor subsequently asked him to remove parts of the speech that referred to Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
Dukorsky consulted the Foreign Ministry on how to proceed and the ministry advised him to refuse the censorship.
As a result, the Polish officials canceled the ceremony, a spokeswoman for the Kiryat Bialik municipality told The Jerusalem Post. Dukorsky read out the speech in an alternative ceremony he held for the Israeli students.
In a statement, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said: “After consulting with the professional staff of the Foreign Ministry, Israel is not prepared to compromise on historical facts. In remembering painful events from the Holocaust, there is no intention to blame the entire Polish nation. It’s important that we continue in an open and honest dialogue between the two sides. I am sorry to hear that the Radomsko municipality in Poland canceled the joint ceremony.”
The mayor’s speech had included an account of a Jewish child who was born and raised in the historic Volyn region in Poland. In the region, Dukorsky wrote: “Most Jews were murdered and slaughtered by Polish peasants who helped the Nazis. All her mother’s family had been murdered. Two hundred thousand Jews were murdered by Poles in that bloody war; 200,000 out of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their aides.”
According to the Kiryat Bialik spokeswoman, this was one of the offending paragraphs as well as some text he wrote about his Polish-born mother, Chaya Dukorsky, who fled Nazi-occupied Poland to Russia and Ukraine.
“At the end of the war, her family returned to Poland to search for the rest of their extended family, all of whom were murdered in the Holocaust by the Nazis and their henchmen,” his speech read. “My mother’s only memory is that at the end of the war, when the train stopped at the station, Poles threw stones at it and shouted ‘Jews go home.’”
Israeli media reported that the Foreign Ministry had contacted the Polish Foreign Ministry regarding the incident, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told the Post that “as far as I know there was no official contact – it’s a local issue.”
Ties between Israel and Poland deteriorated after President Andrzej Duda signed the controversial law into Polish legislation last month, making it illegal to say that the Polish nation or state was complicit in the Holocaust.