The Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial has expressed concerns over a group honouring three people it did not recognise as having risked their lives to save Jews.
Joel Zisenwine, the director of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations department, said there is “fear that these actions may lead to misleading the public” in an email he sent this month to Holocaust commemoration activist Meir Bulka in Israel, who runs the JNerations group.
Bulka had written to Zisenwine to complain about the honoring of three people in Warsaw last month by the From the Depths organization, which was founded by Jonny Daniels, an Israeli-British activist. Daniels has said the three honorees saved some 3,000 people by granting them documents that allowed them to escape.
“The basis for Daniels’ awarding of honors to rescuers of Jews is entirely unclear,” Zisenwine wrote.
One of the honourees, Julian Kulski, reportedly “had been appointed by the Nazis as acting mayor of Warsaw, demanding the leadership of the local Ghetto to reduce its size, vacate apartments etc.” Zisenwine wrote.
Yad Vashem had considered a request for recognition by the man’s son, but rejected it in the 1980s “due to conflicting testimonies and contradictions with other sources, that give a slightly different picture of his attitude to Jews,” Zisenwine said.
Recognition of Poles for saving Jews in the Holocaust is a sensitive issue. Efforts in this field by Poland’s right-wing government have exposed it to criticism by some Jews who say it is highlighting Holocaust-era heroism to eclipse complicity.
Yad Vashem has recognized 6,863 Polish Righteous — far more than in any other country. But in February, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Warsaw alone had 90,000-150,000 people who risked their lives to save Jews.
Daniels’ advocates say he has made partnerships that reduce antisemitic rhetoric there. His critics, including Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, have accused him of helping the government politicise debate over the Holocaust, including in its passing this year of a controversial law making it illegal to blame Poland for Nazi crimes.