Poland threatens to pull out of Israel Summit over WWII comments

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Poland pulled out of a planned summit in Israel on Monday, its prime minister said, after Israel's acting foreign minister said "many Poles" had collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two and shared responsibility for the Holocaust.

Poland's prime minister has canceled plans to send a delegation to meeting in Jerusalem after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Poles "collaborated with the Nazis".

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 13, 2018.

But Poland, where sensitivities over the issue of its behaviour during the Holocaust are high, called in Israeli envoy Anna Azari and said doubts remained about what Netanyahu said.

"The prime ministers of Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary will use the visit for bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as a trilateral meeting", she added, speaking for Slovak premier Peter Pellegrini, who now chairs the V4 group.

Jewish leaders in Poland issued a statement saying that Shamir's words were "unjust already when they were first said, in 1989, when Polish-Israeli relations were just beginning to be rebuilt, after the long night of communism".

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Katz also quoted comments attributed to Israel's late prime minister Yitzhak Shamir: "Shamir said that every Pole suckled anti-Semitism with his mother's milk".

In Poland, a new law has been in force for nearly a year that imposes a fine for attributing responsibility to the Polish nation for crimes committed by Nazi Germany.

That had followed a comment by Netanyahu last week about Polish cooperation with the Nazis.

Morawiecki informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's of his decision by phone Sunday, Michal Dworczyk, who heads the prime minister's chancellery, said.

The two continued that the words Katz repeated "are even more unjust today, 30 years later, when so much has been done on both sides for a mutual understanding of our very hard, but shared history".

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Poland was the first country invaded and occupied by Adolf Hitler's regime and never had a collaborationist government.

Many Poles still refuse to accept research showing thousands participated in the Holocaust in addition to the thousands who risked their lives to help the Jews - and feel the West has failed to recognise Poland's own wartime suffering.

Lost in the diplomatic uproar was that Netanyahu was actually defending his close alliance with Poland and other eastern European leaders when he made the comments that offended the Poles.

About six million Polish citizens died in World War Two, of whom about three million were Jews.

It is also undeniable that Polish Jews perished at the hands of their non-Jewish neighbours in isolated cases.

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