Poland’s president to sign controversial Holocaust bill

Legislation aims to punish people for referring to Nazi German death camps located in Poland as Polish.

Buchenwald Memorial Commemorates Holocaust Victims
Over one million people were killed at the largest of the Nazi German camps in Poland, Auschwitz-Birkenau [Getty Images]

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has said he will sign into law a controversial bill that penalises acts blaming Poland or its citizens for complicity in Nazi war crimes. 

Duda also said on Tuesday that he would send the bill, which has drawn strong rebuke from Poland’s allies and Jewish organisations, to the Constitutional Tribunal to review its possible restriction of freedom of speech, Radio Poland reported.

“Taking the need to protect Poland’s and the Polish people’s good name into account … I made the decision to sign this amendment to the bill into law,” he was quoted as saying by Russia’s Tass news agency.

The law, passed by Poland’s Senate earlier this month, imposes fines or a maximum three-year prison terms on anyone who publicly refers to Nazi German death camps located in Poland as Polish.

It has caused a diplomatic crisis with Israel, which fears it will enable Poland to whitewash the role of Poles during the Holocaust. 

Strategic relations

The United States also strongly opposes the legislation, saying it could hurt Poland’s strategic relations with Israel and the US.

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”.

Poland’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the country’s top diplomat Jacek Czaputowicz met Azari on Monday, assuring her that Poland was opposed to Holocaust denial as well as “the related attribution of complicity in organising the Holocaust to Poland”.

According to historical evidence, there were over one million people, the majority of them Polish Jews, who died in the Nazi Germany-controlled Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, located south of modern-day Poland. Millions more Polish Jews, and other non-Jewish, Polish civilians were murdered across the country.

Polish politicians who supported the bill have insisted that Germany should be blamed solely for the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum in the US, however, said many Polish citizens “were complicit in the crimes against Jews”, even as it acknowledged that thousands of Poles also risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbours. 

The Washington, DC-based museum said some Polish agencies, including the police force and railway personnel, played a role in the deportation and sending of Jews to the death camps.

Source: Al Jazeera


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