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Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 15:33 UK

Poland seeks to boost Israel ties

Donald Tusk
Mr Tusk says he will resolve the issue of compensation

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is in Israel on a two-day visit, his first as head of the Polish government.

Mr Tusk met Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to discuss ways of improving Poland's image in Israel.

They were expected to discuss compensation for Jewish property taken by the Nazis and communists in Poland during and after World War II.

Mr Tusk has promised to resolve this issue by the end of the year.

During a meeting with Mr Peres, who was born in Poland, Mr Tusk spoke of the persecution of Jews by the Nazis who occupied Poland during World War II.

"Given that history has often meant hardship, for Poles as well as for Jews, Poland wants to continue to strengthen its ties with Israel," Mr Tusk said in a statement.

Cultural influence

In 1939, Poland was home to 3.5 million Jews, the largest community in Europe.

Ninety percent of that community was wiped out during the Holocaust.

Birkenau death camp, Poland
Poland wants to shed its image as a Jewish graveyard
Poland is the only EU member which has still not passed a law to compensate Jewish families for property confiscated.

That is partly because there were more Jews living in Poland than in any other European country, and the total claims are estimated at $20bn (10bn).

Before his visit, Mr Tusk said he wanted to change a common view among Israelis, that Poland is a Jewish graveyard.

The majority of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust died in death camps built by the Nazis in Poland.

Every year, an estimated 20% of Israeli high school students visit places like Auschwitz and Treblinka.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Mr Tusk said that Jews lived in Poland for centuries and heavily influenced Polish culture.

He wants the two countries to work together to broaden the scope of the student's visits.


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