President Reuven Rivlin promised Polish President Andrzej Duda a platform to speak if he came to Israel for the World Holocaust Forum, but Duda snubbed the Jerusalem-based event anyway, President’s Residence director-general Harel Tubi revealed on Wednesday.
The president plans to invite Duda to Israel for a separate official visit.
Duda decided not to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum events taking place this week, beginning with a dinner at Rivlin’s official residence on Wednesday and followed by a ceremony at Yad Vashem the next day, in protest over the fact that countries whose governments collaborated with the Nazis were allowed to speak at Yad Vashem, but Poland was not.
Tubi said that Rivlin “invited the Polish president time after time and even promised to create some kind of platform for the Polish president during his visit to Israel. Unfortunately, it didn’t succeed.”
Rivlin will meet Duda next week at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Auschwitz, Tubi told Radio South.
“There is an argument here about the historic narrative, but we think that the presence of the Polish president is important, as the country on whose land these horrors took place,” Tubi said.
Tubi’s statements were carefully worded as the Polish government is especially sensitive to the use of phrases implying that death camps were Polish, since the country was occupied by Nazi Germany at the time and not somewhat self-governed like Vichy France or other parts of Europe.
Duda’s rejection of the invitation to this week’s memorial events comes during a continued dispute between Warsaw and Moscow over whether their countries collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Poland points to the nonaggression pact signed by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, which included an annex that divided Poland between them; World War II began when Germany invaded Poland. Russian President Vladimir Putin has brought up antisemitic and pro-Nazi statements by the Polish ambassador to Germany at the time.
Poland has sought greater world recognition in recent years for the millions of Polish victims of World War II and communism. Invaded by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Poland considers both countries to be aggressors responsible for the suffering and deaths of millions of Poles.
Still, Yad Vashem only invited representatives of the four main Allied powers – US, Russia, Britain and France – as well as Germany, Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said earlier this month that the forum is not about the details of World War II and who is to blame, it is about remembering the Shoah and combating antisemitism. He implored Duda to “stand shoulder and shoulder with other world leaders against antisemitism.”
Tubi also mentioned that several countries wanted to attend the World Holocaust Forum but were told they could not, including Brazil, Kazakhstan and Kosovo, because they were not part of World War II.
In addition, he said there was interest from some Arab countries, but no official requests.