Report by Helene Briskman

(L to R) Helene Briskman BBLBIA – Director, The Polish Ambassador H.E. Witold Sobkow, Richard Sotnick BBLBIA – Chair and Rabbi Gluck

The B’nai B’rith London Bureau of International Affairs (BBLBIA) recently held a Breakfast Meeting with the kind permission of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) at its Embankment premises.

The Polish Ambassador H.E. Witold Sobkow was the guest speaker. He gave a talk on Modern Poland and the Jewish People, which was followed by questions.

The Ambassador gave a brief history of Poland after the Second World War and how after communism Poland was particularly proud to join NATO in 1999 and later the EU in 2004. Poland is also a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Relations between Poland and Israel are excellent. Israel is a strategic partner and Poland supports Israel whenever it can. In fact there are regular consultations between the two governments.

As to history, it is an undeniable fact that the Holocaust happened, while Poland was Nazi controlled and the Polish Government was in exile in London. Poland holds great store by education and it is important for young people to learn what happened and that the Holocaust was different from other tragedies round the world. Young people of about 16/17 years old have to visit Auschwitz as part of the school curriculum. Young Israelis who visit Poland are being encouraged to meet with young Poles and visit sites, other than Auschwitz, such as Krakow.

There is a new museum in Warsaw the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews and there is the Schindler Museum in Krakow.

Cases of Anti-Semitism still happen in Poland, just as anti-Semitism is prevalent everywhere, but this is different from saying Poland is anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is deplorable.

Shechita had posed a difficulty as there were contradictory laws dealing with animal welfare and freedom of religion but this had been solved by the Constitutional Court.

Restitution is also a complex difficult problem as compensation for Jewish people would also open up claims from many other nationalities that had lost property. At the moment the Government cannot get a majority to pass the law needed to deal with this and there have been many ideas including giving shares/bonds in companies instead of restitution.

Rabbi Gluck ended the meeting, which was very constructive, by giving an excellent vote of thanks.

 

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