Dozens of Holocaust survivors protested outside the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday, demonstrating against a new law in Poland that criminalizes suggestions of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
The demonstrators carried signs with slogans such as: “No law can erase history” and “Poles, we remember what you did.” The demonstrators broke into the compound of the embassy singing Am Yisrael Chai, “The people of Israel live.”The protest was organized by the Haifa-based Yad Ezer La-Haver foundation, which runs a home in that city for Holocaust survivors.The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew-language sister publication Maariv reported that survivor Shalom Steinberg, 95, from Haifa, shouted: “You should be ashamed. I escaped from Auschwitz and weep every night from the things I went through there. Many people like me did not survive, and we will not forget that the Nazis massacred us on your Polish soil.”Motke Lieber, another Holocaust survivor, added: “How can it be that such a law is passed when the Poles did not help us, and certainly not the Germans?” Last week, hours after the Polish parliament passed the legislation, a group of Polish-born Holocaust survivors sent a letter of protest to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.“From first-hand testimony, we say that there were Poles who collaborated with the Nazis, and even worse, when the war ended and the Jews returned from all sorts of places where they had lived and hidden during the war, the Poles were the ones who massacred them,” the letter said, adding that the Polish people must take responsibility, immediately cancel the law and compensate the few survivors who are still alive.The protest is expected to grow, as survivors plan to set up a protest tent opposite the embassy and have called on citizens to sign a petition demanding that Poland repeal the law.“We are here to voice our protest, and we promise it won’t be quiet,” said Yad Ezer La-Haver CEO Shimon Sabag.Meanwhile, the International March of the Living announced it would continue holding its annual march in Poland.Earlier this week, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yael Antebi called on Education Minister Naftali Bennett to cancel student trips to Poland and move the March of the Living to Jerusalem.Ukraine’s Rabbi Moshe Azman also called on Bennett to suspend school trips to Poland, suggesting the March of the Living be held this year in Ukraine.In a statement released Thursday, International March of the Living president Phyllis Greenberg Heideman said: “We believe it is our sacred responsibility to carry the torch of Holocaust memory, and we remain committed to teaching the importance of understanding the past as a means of protecting the future. Now, as much as ever, we believe our mission is of the utmost importance.”March of the Living officials said that since the march’s inception, “Great progress has been made in the arena of Polish-Jewish relations and in the relationship between Poland and the State of Israel, a development the March of the Living has played an important role in.”The organization expressed hope that the Israeli and Polish governments would find a way to solve the current impasse.
Holocaust survivors protest at the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv against a law prohibiting the mention of Poland"s involvement in the Holocaust, February 8, 2018. (Avshalom Sassoni)