Israel Throws Alliance With V4 in the Trash! Refuses to Stop Blaming Poland For the Holocaust!
Only a week ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was heartily welcomed in Warsaw. A couple of days later, Jerusalem was going to hold a meeting of the Visegrad Four leaders. Israel seriously hoped that the leaders of Poland, Czechia, Hungary, and Slovakia would follow the example of the USA against the position of the EU and move their embassies to Jerusalem. But one day before his departure, Benjamin Netanyahu held a speech about Poland being responsible for the Holocaust, accusing the locals of taking part in the extermination of Jews during WWII. The hosts were outraged. In addition, Yisrael Katz, who was appointed foreign minister the day before, quoted one of the late Israeli Prime Ministers on Tel Aviv television.
Yisrael Katz, Foreign Minister of Israel: «Yitzhak Shamir once said that the Poles absorbed anti-semitism with their mothers' milk. There's no way to gloss over this story. We're the ones bearing the legacy of the Holocaust and will continue to do so».
There wasn't perhaps a single politician in Warsaw who wasn't outraged, offended, and demanding of an immediate official apology from Israel.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of Poland: «We're waiting for a strong response to the reprehensible and racist words of the newly-appointed Israeli Foreign Minister. We can't not react to that».
The Israeli Foreign Ministry had planned festivities but wound up with a scandal. It can even come to the withdrawal of ambassadors and the severance of diplomatic relations with Poland. The Visegrad Four didn't gather in Jerusalem, Netanyahu didn't manage to find a weak spot in the position of the EU but his principles were too important to him.
Poland zealously began to recall that during the war the locals saved 120,000 Jews from ghettos and death camps that 5,000 Poles were executed by the Nazis for hiding those whom the Third Reich planned to murder in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Treblinka and that Israel itself has recognized 6,620 Poles as Righteous Among the Nations.
Roman Bronfman, political expert: «Some Poles were anti-semitic, but other Poles were saving Jews during WWII. It's enough to remember the example of Pope John Paul II or the example of Chairman of the Israeli Parliament Shevah Weiss, who hid in his Polish friend's basement for four years and became the Israeli ambassador to Poland in the 90s».
But there's another thing that Israel remembers. As a five-year-old boy, Leon Rubin walked thousands of kilometers with his parents and his fellow residents of the village of Dauhinava to cross the frontline and get to the USSR, fleeing from the Nazis and hiding from the local Polish peasants.
Leon Rubin, Holocaust survivor: «I was a kid, but I know that many Poles used to help the Nazis and some were killing Jews themselves. No Pole would ever help us hide. We knew that we'd get betrayed».
The words of Leon Rubin is part of the great and horrible truth according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem. It doesn't consider the history of WWII's war crimes to be a matter of political games and compromises.
Efraim Zuroff, historian: «In Eastern Europe, Jews were often murdered by the locals. Today, those countries are trying to understate their responsibility for the murders. I'm talking about Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, and Poland. But the truth is that all their demographics took part in the murder of Jews. Poles were responsible for exterminating 200,000 Jews. They either did it by their own hands or by cooperating with the Nazis».
Ksenia Svetlova, Knesset senator: «Why has Israel represented by its PM/Foreign Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu has held both offices) been silent until now against the backdrop of what's happening in Poland? I'm talking about that horribly cynical law that legalizes the prosecution of historians and any who dare to open their mouth and say something about how the Poles used to take part in the atrocities towards Jews that were taking place in the territory of modern Poland. I really hope that from now on, our relationship will dramatically change. It feels nice and easy to speak the truth. And that's what we must do even if a political alliance or some other union is at stake.»
Our crew was working in Yad Vashem when Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis was laying a wreath by the eternal flame in the Memorial Hall of Names. The Polish delegation didn't come at all because their version of the tragic events of the past differs from the Israeli one.
The Square of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising at the Holocaust Remembrance Center in Yad Vashem. The Polish Prime Minister was supposed to visit the center to honor the memory of those who didn't submit to those who were fighting a hopeless battle against the Nazis. But he made a different choice.
WWII veteran Efraim Paperny was shocked by another Polish law that legalized the demolition of the hundreds of Red Army monuments in Poland. Efraim himself was one of the 500,000 Red Army soldiers of Jewish origin who liberated Poland from the Nazis. His Polish wife was a prisoner of the Lublin Ghetto.
Efraim Paperny, WWII veteran: «I don't know what has changed in Poland and why they now treat their past history and the victory of the Soviet people over Nazism with such hatred».
Israel remembers and honors the heroes and victims of the war. Every year, on the eve of Independence Day, an eternal flame is lit to honor the memory of the 6,000,000 Jews incinerated in the fire of the Holocaust. But Israel won't give up this pain even for the most seemingly advantageous alliances.
Sergey Pashkov, Varvara Golemba, and Alexander Ivanyuk Vesti: News of the Week, Israel.