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Poland recalls envoy to Israel in row over Holocaust claims

Move comes after Israel recalled ambassador and called Polish anti-compensation law ‘antisemitic’

Holocaust survivor Edward Mossberg with Polish president Andrzej Duda, at a ceremony in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 12, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/ Flash90/ File)
Holocaust survivor Edward Mossberg with Polish president Andrzej Duda, at a ceremony in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 12, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/ Flash90/ File)

Poland on Monday recalled its ambassador to Israel two days after Jerusalem did the same, over a Polish law curbing World War II-era property claims, which the Israelis have slammed as “antisemitic.”

President Andrzej Duda on Saturday approved legislation that will severely restrict claims on properties seized by the state after World War II.

Warsaw says it will bolster legal certainty in the property market, but opponents say that it is unjust to people with legitimate claims, including Holocaust survivors and their families.

The “ambassador to Israel will remain in the country (Poland) until further notice,” the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The move came, it said, in response to the “recent unjustified actions of the State of Israel, including the unfounded decision to lower the level of diplomatic relations” and “unacceptable statements” by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, among others.

But Israel itself had already told Poland on Saturday that its envoy, Marek Magierowski, who is in his home country on vacation, should not come back to the Jewish state.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) speaks at a ceremony in Rabat, on August 11, 2021. Poland’s President Andrej Duda (right) arrives for a NATO summit in Brussels on June 14, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO; Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via AP)

“The decision on the permanent level of the Polish diplomatic representation in Israel will be made in the following days,” the Polish statement said, adding that Warsaw would also not send the deputy ambassador. “Another employee” would temporarily manage the embassy in Tel Aviv.

Lapid on Saturday recalled Israel’s envoy to Poland over the new law, which he called “immoral, antisemitic.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has slammed the legislation as “shameful,” and said it showed “disgraceful contempt for the Holocaust’s memory.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday rejected accusations of antisemitism.

He said Israel’s decision to recall its charge d’affaires to Warsaw was “baseless and irresponsible” and accused the Israeli government of prioritizing “party interests.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from left, visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on December 6, 2019. (Markus Schreiber via AP/File)

“No one who knows the truth about the Holocaust and Poland’s suffering during World War II can accept this way of conducting politics,” he said on Facebook.

Earlier Monday, Poland said it was examining the option of suspending annual Israeli youth trips to Holocaust memorial sites in the country.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski claimed in a Monday radio interview that “the trips do not take place in a proper manner. They sometimes instill hatred for Poland in the heads of young Israelis.

“We are dealing with anti-Polish sentiment in Israel, and one of the reasons for this is the way in which Israeli youth are educated and raised,” Jablonski charged.

“This propaganda, based on hatred of Poland, seeps into the heads of young people from an early age in school,” he claimed.

Jablonski said the country would examine the youth trips and make a decision on the matter. “The way these trips [currently] take place is certainly not the right way,” he said.

A young woman wrapped in an Israeli flag at the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, April 11, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90/File)

Each year, thousands of Israeli high school students travel to Poland to commemorate and study the Holocaust, visiting Nazi sites associated with the genocide of European Jewry such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

The Polish law signed by Duda on Saturday sets a 30-year time limit on challenges to property confiscations, which would mean that pending proceedings involving Communist-era property confiscations would be discontinued and dismissed. It affects Polish, Jewish, and other property claims that are subject to contested previous determinations.

Some three million Polish Jews, 90 percent of the country’s Jewish community, were killed during World War II in Nazi-occupied Poland.

After the war, Communist authorities nationalized vast numbers of properties that had been left empty because their owners had been killed or fled.

While the law covers both Jewish and non-Jewish claimants, campaigners say Jewish owners will be disproportionately affected because they were often late in lodging claims after the war.

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