Polish embassy in Switzerland invites Israeli journalists to honor Poles who rescued Jews

Invitation extended amid dispute over Polish Holocaust-related legislation.

February 11, 2018 18:21
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Netanyahu at the dedication ceremony of a monument to the Righteous Among the Nations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the dedication ceremony of a monument to the Righteous Among the Nations at the Foreign Ministry. (photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

The Polish Embassy in Switzerland on Saturday invited Israeli journalists to attend a ceremony honoring two Polish envoys to Bern who rescued hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust by forging Paraguayan passports.

The pointed invitation comes amid a dispute between Israel and Poland over contentious legislation recently passed in Poland making it a crime to blame the “Polish nation or Polish state” for culpability in the Holocaust.

The Polish Embassy in Switzerland tweeted at Israeli and Jewish journalists and publications, including The Jerusalem Post, a letter that reads: “Dear Israeli journalists, Dear Colleagues, it is my honor to invite you to a ceremony of unveiling of a commemorative plaque dedicated to the memory of Polish diplomats – Juliusz Kuhl (1913-1985) and Konstanty Rokicki (1899-1958) – which will take place at noon, on February 12 at Thunstrasse 21, in Bern, Switzerland.”

The letter goes on to describe how Rokicki and Kuhl, a Jewish diplomat, worked together to send forged Paraguayan passports to countries such as Nazi-occupied Poland, the Netherlands and Slovakia, saving hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives.

The ceremony is set to be attended by Poland’s Senate Speaker Stanislaw Karczewski, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Dziedziczak, US and Israeli envoys to Bern and representatives of the Polish and Swiss Jewish communities.

Also over the weekend, an adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda, Andrzej Zybertowicz, made waves after he told the Polska Times that he thinks Israel’s negative reaction to the “Polish death camps” legislation emerged from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust.”

He also charged that “it is clear that Israel is fighting to preserve the monopoly of the Holocaust.”

On Thursday, dozens of Holocaust survivors protested outside the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv. They demonstrated against the implementation of a Polish law criminalizing the use of the words “Polish death camps,” carrying signs with slogans such as: “No law can erase history” and “Poles, we remember what you did.”

The bill was signed into law last Tuesday by Duda, despite a furious reaction from Israel and warnings from Washington that this could damage US-Poland ties. Hours before he signed the bill, however, Duda said he would send it to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal for judicial review, leaving open the possibility of a last-ditch amendment to the legislation.

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