Against "Polish camps", The "Rzeczpospolita" daily campaign

Two nations fed with the same suffering

Being the Ambassador of Israel to Poland with great recognition and respect I watched the Polish Government facing huge challenge of organising commemorative event to mark 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. With a feeling of great friendship I watched how respected Polish authorities and the overall Polish society expressed their respect and compassion for joint tragic history. We were together there: Poles and Israelis, Roma, Russians ... Christians and Jews.

Some of the sentences uttered by our Polish friends during the commemorative event will remain forever in the annals of history of both nations that suffered so much but still look into the future with determination and hope. While listening to the moving speeches on site of the former Birkenau extermination camp, I thought about the writers connected with this dreadful place who made the recollections about the martyrology of our nations live permanently in our memories. These writers included, among others, Tadeusz Borowski, Primo Levi or Icchak Kacenelson. I also recollected the phrases of the last verse of magnificent poem written by Antoni Słonimski, the Polish-Jewish poet. His poem is called  "Elegy for Jewish townlets":

"Nie ma już tych miasteczek, przeminęły cieniem

"These townlets do not exist any longer, they passed away with a shadow

I cień ten kłaść się będzie między nasze słowa,

And this shadow will cast itself between our words,

Nim się bratersko zbliżą i złączą od nowa

Before two nations fed with the same suffering

Dwa narody karmione tym samym cierpieniem"

will come closer in brotherly manner and reunite"

Sometimes it seems to me that this moment has already arrived.

We, being Jews and Israelis, with reject resolutely terminology such as "Polish concentration camps". These prejudicial and erroneous phrases represent primarily testimony about ignorance and lack of understanding of fundamental historical truth. Every thinking man knows that it was the Nazis who selected Poland for central site for dreadful genocide of extermination of European Jews. On the Polish soil the Germans built terrifying camps where they systematically murdered 4.5 million Jews (including 3 million Polish Jews) and other nationalities including thousands of Poles.

We appreciate Polish effort of uncompromising fight against racism, xenophobia and antisemitism. Being the nation that learnt history in a bitter way, we know that not necessarily the level of GDP or import and export balance, but rather joint struggle against negative stereotypes, blind hatred and unjust generalisations is a prerequisite of joining the family of civilised nations.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID PELEG

The Ambassador of Israel to Warsaw, Poland