WARSAW (Reuters) - Jewish human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center said on Wednesday it was considering issuing a travel advisory for Jews urging them to limit their visits to Poland after the country’s relations with Israel were strained.
This month Poland sparked international criticism, including from Israel and the United States, when it approved a law that imposes jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the Holocaust.
Some three million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis during their occupation of the country. They accounted for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Poland’s nationalist ruling party says the new law is needed to ensure that Poles are also recognized as victims, not perpetrators, of Nazi aggression. It notes that the Nazis also viewed Slavs as racially inferior and that many Poles were killed or forced into slave labor during the German occupation.
“In wake of the controversial new Holocaust Law in Poland and the anti-Semitism it has unleashed that has left the Jewish community shaken, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) is considering issuing a Travel Advisory for world Jewry,” the organization said in a statement issued late on Wednesday.
“A Travel Advisory would urge Jews to limit their travel to Poland only to visit ancestral graves and Holocaust-era Death Camps,” the NGO named after legendary Nazi hunter who died in 2005 said.
Many Poles believe their nation behaved honorably for the most part during the Holocaust. But research published since 1989 has sparked a painful debate about responsibility and reconciliation.
A 2000-2004 inquiry by Poland’s state Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) found that on July 10, 1941, Nazi occupiers and local inhabitants colluded in a massacre of at least 340 Jews at Jedwabne. Some victims were burned alive after being locked inside a barn.
The revelation disturbed the Poles’ belief that, with a few exceptions, they conducted themselves honorably during a vicious war in which a fifth of the nation perished. Some Poles still refuse to acknowledge the IPN’s findings.
Anti-Semitism was common in Poland in the run-up to World War Two. After the war, a pogrom in the town of Kielce and a bout of anti-Semitism in 1968 sponsored by the communist authorities forced many survivors who had stayed in Poland to flee.
The SWC with headquarters in Los Angeles is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States.
Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Toby Chopra