Poland confirms ambassador will not return to Israel

Warsaw threatens to end ‘anti-Polish’ Israeli youth Holocaust memorial trips

Amid public spat over WWII restitution claims law, deputy FM claims organized visits to Nazi death camps ‘instill hatred for Poland’

A student on a trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in modern-day Poland on April 27, 2014. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
A student on a trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in modern-day Poland on April 27, 2014. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Poland on Monday said it was examining the option of suspending annual Israeli youth trips to Holocaust memorial sites in the country, amid a major diplomatic crisis between the nations.

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.

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

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński in Warsaw, Poland, September 8, 2020. (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)

On Monday, Poland’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Israel would remain in the country indefinitely and not return to Israel, in a tit-for-tat move after Israel returned its own envoy from Warsaw amid the diplomatic spat, which was sparked by Polish legislation that severely restricts World War II-era restitution claims.

Israel 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.

The Polish foreign ministry also said that an appointed deputy ambassador, who was expected to travel to Israel soon, would remain in Poland for now. It added that, meanwhile, another staff worker at the Tel Aviv embassy would take over duties.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Saturday said that “Poland, not for the first time, passed an antisemitic and immoral law.”

Lapid’s Hebrew-language statement came after Poland’s President Andrej Duda approved the law, defying strong opposition from Israel and the United States.

Illustrative: Israeli high school students on school trips to Poland, where they learn about the Holocaust. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

The law 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.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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