Israeli-Polish Foreign Ministers Discuss Resuming Educational Holocaust Visits


Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau. (REUTERS/Ints Kalnins)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Polish counterpart, Zbigniew Rau, discussed ways to improve bilateral ties, particularly resuming educational Holocaust visits for Israeli students, in a phone call on Tuesday.

Bilateral ties between the countries have been strained over the last two years.

In June, Israel canceled annual summer trips for high school students to visit the Nazi concentration camps. The cancellation came amid a disagreement over security arrangements, and a Polish move to regulate the visits. Polish officials in June said the trips gave Israelis a “negative image” of their country.

Then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid rejected the Polish regulations, saying, “The Poles wanted to dictate what was prohibited to tell Israeli children traveling to Poland. We will not agree to that.” In October, Israel’s Education Ministry said it would sanction organizations continuing to bring students to Poland.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, around 40,000 Israeli students traveled to Poland annually.

In 2021 Poland passed a law preventing former Polish property owners — including Holocaust survivors and their descendants — from regaining property expropriated by the country’s Communist regime. The law’s passage was denounced by Israeli, U.S. and European officials.

Poland is the only member of the European Union that has not regulated through law the restitution of money and property seized by the Nazis or Communists. Israel recalled its ambassador in protest.

However, Israel returned its ambassador to Warsaw in July to coordinate efforts to rescue Israeli nationals from Ukraine and provide aid after the Russian invasion.

Poland has yet to return its ambassador to Israel, an issue that Cohen and Rau also discussed.

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