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Agreement to resume high school trips to Poland for Holocaust education prompts wave of criticism in Israel

Jewish youth participate in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland as Israel marks annual Holocaust Memorial Day, April 16, 2015. (Photo: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A new agreement between Israel and Poland over the resumption of Israeli high school trips to Poland to learn about the Holocaust has caused an outcry in Israel as Israeli youths will only be presented with the Polish narrative of Holocaust history.

The agreement, which has yet to be ratified by both countries, is an attempt to repair ties, which have been strained since the Polish decision in 2018 to outlaw blaming Poland for any crimes committed during the Holocaust. 

As part of the diplomatic row that followed, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated that the legislation was anti-Semitic and Israel suspended its regular youth field trips to Poland in 2021. Prior to the suspension, some 25,000 Israeli high school students would visit Poland annually to learn about the Holocaust. 

Critics say the draft agreement means that Israeli youths will only hear the Polish narrative of Holocaust history, especially since it does not indicate any Polish involvement. Critics also say the agreement puts too much emphasis on the role of Poles in saving Jews. 

The agreement includes a list of 32 recommended places to visit in Poland, “pertaining to the Holocaust and other World War II crimes.”

The Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, based in Jerusalem, said the places that are listed include “problematic sites inappropriate for visiting on educational trips.” 

Lapid, who now serves as Israel's opposition leader, said the draft agreement signifies a “surrender” by Israel to Poland and constitutes “a national disgrace.” 

“The Poles have, for years, attempted through every means to hide and deny the part of many Poles in the extermination [of Jews in the Holocaust] – alongside those Righteous among the Nations who acted to save Jews. … It is unacceptable that youth trips coming to learn of the Holocaust will learn the Polish narrative,” Lapid said.

Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch, who was involved in the draft agreement, accused Lapid of destroying relations with Poland under the previous government and claimed, “There is no change in the [student] trips. Anything else is fake news.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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