Polish president: Send your youth to see more than just the Holocaust

"We want to move the good relations that we have on a government-to-government level to a people-to-people level."

Polish President Lech Kaczynski said on Thursday he has urged the government to broaden youth exchanges to include the centuries of Jewish life in his country before the Holocaust. "We want to move the good relations that we have on a government-to-government level to a people-to-people level, starting with the youth of the two countries," Kaczynski said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post during a visit to Israel for a conference of world leaders marking the state's 60th anniversary. A joint fund is being established, Kaczynski said, to allow Polish and Israeli schools and organization to apply for assistance toward trips and other projects. According to a draft proposal, Poland will allocate €2 million toward the fund's first year, Polish officials said. The level of Israeli funding has not been set, the officials said, as the draft is being reviewed. The establishment of the fund comes after years when Poland pressed Israel to broaden the youth exchanges, amid a struggle over the county's image in history. "If we would like to extend the strategic partnership for the future, we should have the new generation on both sides prepared for this cooperation," Kaczynski said. Israel's relations with Poland are among its best in Europe. The tens of thousands of Israeli high school students who travel to Poland each year to visit the German concentration camps have little interaction with their Polish counterparts. Around 3 million Polish Jews died in the Holocaust, while the country was occupied by Germany. Over the last decade, Poles have become increasingly aware of their mixed wartime record, after decades in which the Communist-run governments made sure that no mention was made that Jews were singled out by the Germans for extermination, and portrayed Poles as equally victimized during World War II. Israeli Education Ministry officials, including Minister Yuli Tamir, who met with Kaczynski this week in Jerusalem, were receptive to the proposed broadening of the youth exchanges, but stressed that historic facts cannot be whitewashed, Israeli and Polish officials said. Also on Thursday, a retired Polish social worker who helped save 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII was buried in Warsaw. Irena Sendler, who was one of the first people to be recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nation, died on Monday at the age of 98. Kaczynski asked Polish schools to hold a moment of silence at noon, at the time of Sendler's funeral. Sendler, who was little known outside of Poland until recently, after decades when Communist governments frowned on her heroic actions, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago. "I am deeply convinced that her name will be even more known after her death than in life," Kaczynski said.