The Righteous said they did not agree to Poles and Jews being pitted against each other and that they wanted the two nations to build a shared future based on “friendship, solidarity and truth”.
The letter said the Righteous witnessed the extermination of the Jewish nation and the murder of Poles by Germans during World War II, adding that six million Polish citizens were killed, among them three million Polish Jews.
It added that many Poles risked their lives by helping their Jewish countrymen, but that there were also “despicable” Poles at the time.
“They acted in their own name, not in the name of the Polish state. But they were Poles. We were scared of them, too,” the letter read.
But it was Nazi German policy which set up concentration and death camps in occupied Poland, the letter read.
The letter “on behalf of the last of the 6,850 Polish Righteous Among the Nations”, was addressed to the Polish prime minister and parliamentary speaker and their Israeli counterparts.
Among the signatories were four heads of Polish Righteous Among the Nations Association, which was set up in 1985 by some of the Poles among the 26,513 non-Jews recognized by Yad Vashem for their efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust during World War II. The association aims to commemorate and share information about Nazi German occupation in Poland, the Holocaust and about the people who fought against them.
The letter came amid tensions between Poland and Israel.
Relations between the countries soured when Polish parliament passed a bill, later signed into law by Polish President Andrzej Duda, which could impose a jail term for anyone who accuses Poland of being complicit in Nazi German crimes during World War II.
Duda said that he would refer the law to Poland's highest court so it can assess whether the new rules are in line with the constitution.
In Poland, the new rules are seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”, which many say implies the country's involvement in the Holocaust.
Poland has long fought the use of such phrases, which have often appeared in foreign media in relation to Nazi German-run extermination camps located in occupied Polish territory during World War II.
But commentators have said that Israel is concerned that the new law could mean penalties for anyone who criticises individual Poles' role in the Holocaust.
Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari has said that in Israel the law "is seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors' testimony.”
Public broadcaster Polish Radio has launched a new website, GermanDeathCamps.info, aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust. (vb)