The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, told Arutz Sheva on Sunday that already in 2016 he warned senior Israeli and Polish officials against the proposed legislation that attempts to conceal the Polish involvement in the Holocaust.
"I warned about it a year and a half ago when it passed through the government, but I did not do so in the media; I did so in conversations with those who are supposed to hear it. Up to now it has not helped, I hope that now it will help. We will continue with dialogue and I am optimistic about the results," said Rabbi Schudrich, speaking two days after the Polish parliament approved a law setting fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as being Polish.
Asked where, in his view, the problematic points in the law are, Rabbi Schudrich replied that "the main problem is that the language of the law is still not clear enough. It talks about the fact that mentioning the term 'Polish extermination camp' is a criminal offense. I am not saying this part is right, but it is understandable because the extermination camps were set up by Germany and they were responsible for them. The question is whether the punishment is in accordance with the crime."
"The second part is that whoever says a lie about Polish involvement in the Holocaust, it will be considered a criminal offense. The question is how they will determine what is considered a lie and what is not. After all, if I say that Poles killed Jews in the Holocaust, that's true. If I say that the Poles built Auschwitz - that is a lie. Or is there a distinction and nothing should be said about Polish involvement in the Holocaust, and any such statement would be considered a criminal offense?" he continued.
Poland's Chief Rabbi believes that an independent body should be established to deal with and filter out the unquestionable facts about the involvement of the Polish people in the Holocaust. "I support the proposal of the Conference of European Rabbis to establish a body of Polish and Jewish academics who will not be tied to the government and will set standards for the law and will examine exactly what happened and objectively decide what the Poles did and what they did not."
The Jewish community, with the exception of Rabbi Schudrich, has remained silent on the legislation, but the rabbi said that this silence does not testify to what is happening within the community. "The Jewish community understands the sensitivity of the Poles on the one hand, but on the other, we are also very sensitive to the possibility that the new law will harm legitimate statements."
Finally, the rabbi expressed optimism that the bill will undergo a change. "We have a good relationship with the president's office, with some members of parliament, and we are working on the issue in a very intensive way."
On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the two agreed to immediately start a dialogue in order to try to reach understandings on the controversial legislation.
On Saturday, Netanyahu criticized the bill, saying, "The law is baseless; I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied."