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The Holocaust spat

The Holocaust spat

A summit of central European leaders in Israel has been cancelled after Israeli officials sparked outrage by accusing Poland of complicity during the Holocaust. Poland pulled out of the summit in protest over remarks made by acting Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, who said that Poles had "collaborated with the Nazis" during World War II and "suckle antisemitism with their mother's milk." Katz's remarks came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a conversation with Israeli reporters last week at the end of a two-day visit to Warsaw, said that Poles had cooperated with the Nazis during the Holocaust. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described Katz's remarks as "racist and unacceptable." The cancellation of the summit was a setback for Netanyahu, who was due to host the first meeting of Visegrad nations – Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia – outside Europe. The Visegrad group was formed in the 1990s to bolster military, economic and cultural ties between the four countries as they emerged from decades as satellite states of the Soviet Union. The summit was seen as a further sign of close ties between Netanyahu and leaders of central European countries – many of whom have voiced strong international support for Israel and hinted they would like to follow the lead of the United States and move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel's foreign affairs spokesman informed that the leaders of Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia would still visit Jerusalem and hold meetings with Netanyahu but since Morawiecki would not be attending, it could not be considered a full Visegrad meeting. It is not the first time Israel and Poland have clashed over the Holocaust. In 2018, the Polish government introduced legislation to ban terms such as "Polish death camps" in relation to Auschwitz and other such camps located in what was then Nazi-occupied Poland. The bill also made it illegal to accuse the nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany. Israel was vociferous in its criticism of the bill, accusing Poland of trying to rewrite history. Poland eventually watered down the legislation and removed the threat of jail terms for those who accused the country of complicity. While historians have reached a consensus that certain Polish individuals and groups did collaborate with the Nazi occupiers, recent Polish governments have sought to challenge that narrative. Around three million Polish Jews and 1.9 million non-Jewish citizens of Poland were killed during the Holocaust. Interestingly, even as several European countries have turned Right and opted for populist regimes that, have their roots in the neo-Nazi movement, 40 per cent seemed unaware of the Holocaust. The finding came out in a Survey.

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