Poland (AP) — Poland’s Senate has backed legislation that will regulate
Holocaust speech, a move that has already strained relations with both
Israel and the United States.
bill proposed by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party and
voted for early Thursday could see individuals facing up to three years
in prison for intentionally attempting to falsely attribute the crimes
of Nazi Germany to the Polish nation as a whole. It was approved by the
lower house last week.
the bill exempts artistic and research work, it has raised concerns
that the Polish state will decide itself what it considers to be
historic facts. The bill has already sparked a diplomatic dispute with
Israel and drawn calls from the United States for a reconsideration.
voted 57 to 23 in favor of the bill with two abstentions. To become
law, the bill requires approval from President Andrzej Duda, who
government says it is fighting against the use of phrases like “Polish
death camps” to refer to death camps operated by Nazi Germany in
occupied Poland during World War II. Poland was among the hardest-hit
victims of Nazi Germany and is preserving Holocaust memorials.
surprise at the storm the legislation has unleashed, the Polish
government said it was to issue an explanatory statement later Thursday.
Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki suggested Israel had been consulted
on the bill and voiced no objections, many in Israel have argued that
the move is an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the
killing of Jews during World War II.
Birenbaum, a Holocaust survivor and acclaimed Israeli author, called
the new law “madness,” telling Israel’s Army Radio it was “ludicrous
and disproportionate to what actually happened to Jews there.”
a member of the International Auschwitz Committee, said she was
concerned the Polish government “might arrest me there for what I’m
Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the law constituted
“a denial of Poland’s part in the Holocaust of the Jews.” He called on
Netanyahu to immediately recall Israel’s ambassador to Poland for
the balance between diplomatic considerations and moral considerations,
there must be a clear decision: perpetuating the memory of the victims
of the Holocaust above any other consideration.”
groups in Poland and Israel are to start discussing the issue this
week, although it was not clear what effect it could have on the bill.
hours before the Senate’s vote, the U.S. asked Poland to rethink the
proposed legislation saying it could “undermine free speech and
Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert voiced concern about the
“repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on
Poland’s strategic interests and relationships — including with the
United States and Israel.”
Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said the government will take
every effort to “minimize the losses” stemming from the storm over the
been entangled into a big international conflict, without any such
intention on our part, we decided that the basic goal is to defend the
good name of Poland and (so the Senate) approved the bill,” Gowin said
on TVN24. “We acted in good faith.”
Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, issued a statement saying it was “most
unfortunate” that Poland was proceeding with a law “liable to blur
historical truths” that “jeopardized the free and open discussion of
the part of the Polish people in the persecution of the Jews at the
Polish Official Accuses Jews of ‘Passivity’ in Holocaust
An adviser to Poland’s president says he thinks Israel’s negative
reaction to a law criminalizing some statements about Poland’s actions
during World War II stemmed from a “feeling of shame at the passivity
of the Jews during the Holocaust.”
Zybertowicz, a Nicolaus Copernicus University sociology professor who
also serves as a presidential adviser, called Israel’s opposition to
the new law “anti-Polish” and said it shows the Mideast nation is
“clearly fighting to keep the monopoly on the Holocaust.”
Jews engaged in denunciation, collaboration during the war. I think
Israel has still not worked it through,” Zybertowicz said in the
interview in the Polska-The Times newspaper Friday.
Zybertowicz could not immediately be reached for comment but tweeted a link to the article.
remarks follow open expressions of anti-Semitism that surfaced online
and in some government-controlled media when Israeli officials objected
to the law, which outlaws public statements that falsely and
intentionally attribute Nazi crimes to Poland under the German
ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, appeared to acknowledge the
recent outburst of anti-Jewish rhetoric in the country, denouncing
anti-Semitism in a speech Saturday night as a “serious illness of the
soul” and an “illness of the mind” that must be rejected. At the same
time, he said Poland does not have to agree with “either Jews or
Poles,” who want to “offend” Poland.
have sometimes been described, often derisively, as having remained
passive during the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. Key acts of
resistance contradict that, most notably the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of
1943. Smaller revolts took place in the death camps, including Sobibor
and Treblinka, where starving prisoners without weapons faced heavily
armed German guards.
Israel, some fear the Polish speech law will allow the Polish
government to whitewash the role some individual Poles had in the
deaths of Jews. The law allows for prison terms of up to three years.
President Andrzej Duda and other government officials said it was
needed because Poles sometimes are depicted as collaborators or
complicit in the Nazi genocide.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that she won’t get involved or
interfere with Poland’s law because “as Germans, we are responsible for
the things that happened during the Holocaust.” Merkel said in her
weekly podcast that the onus on Germany from the Holocaust is something
every German government will have to address.
Duda signed the law on Tuesday but also asked the country’s constitutional court to review it.
government went into exile abroad when German forces took over, while
an underground army at home resisted the Nazis. After Jews, ethnic
Poles made up the largest group of victims at the Nazi-run camps. There
were, however, cases of Poles who identified Jews to the Germans or
killed them directly.