The Polish parliament has approved a controversial law forbidding any mention of participation of the “Polish nation” in crimes committed during the Holocaust.
The law also forbids use of the term “Polish death camp” to describe the death camps where Jews and others were murdered in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War. Anyone who violates the new law, including non-Polish citizens, will be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.
According to the law, which was approved on Friday by the country’s lower parliament, anyone who publicly attributes guilt or complicity to the Polish state for crimes committed by Nazi Germany, war crimes or other crimes against humanity, will be liable to criminal proceedings.
Punishment will also be imposed on those who are seen to “deliberately reduce the responsibility of the ‘true culprits’ of these crimes.”
The new law will apply both to Polish citizens and to foreigners regardless which country the statement is supposed to have been made in.
The implication of the new law means that in theory, a Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland who lives in Israel, who may make a statement such as “the Polish people were involved in the murder of my grandfather in the Holocaust,” or “my mother was murdered in a Polish extermination camp,” would be liable for imprisonment in Poland.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday evening responded to Poland’s bill to outlaw mention of Poland’s role in the Holocaust:
“The law is baseless; I strongly oppose it,” Netanyahu said. “One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”
“I have instructed the Israeli Ambassador to Poland to meet with the Polish Prime Minister this evening and express to him my strong position against the law.”
In a statement Israeli President Reuven Rivlin responded, “‘One cannot fake history, one cannot rewrite it, one cannot hide the truth. Every crime, every offence must be condemned, denounced, must be examined and exposed.’ This was stated in the Knesset by former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski.”
“Only 73 years have passed since the gates of hell were flung open. Living Holocaust survivors are disappearing from the world and we still have to fight for the memory of the Holocaust as it was.
“The Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the entire world must ensure that the Holocaust is recognized for its horrors and atrocities.
“This legislation is a slap in the face – especially coming on international holocaust Memorial Day – not only to the victims and to history but also to those Polish citizens who were deemed Righteous gentiles and saved Jews from Nazi extermination , who stood in stark contrast to those (too many) Polish citizens who cooperated with the Nazis,” European Jewish Association (EJA) General Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin said.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said the law is “horrific and terrible – it will harm our ability to educate against hatred and racism.”
“You cannot deny the role many Poles played in the Holocaust, and the aid they provided to the Nazis and their murderous activities,” he said. “I call on the Polish government to act immediately to cancel this shameful law.”
“No law can change the historical truth, and it is unacceptable to try to ‘educate’ the families of Holocaust survivors, who live every day with the memory of loved ones who were murdered in hell.”
“I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that”, MK Yair Lapid, son of a Holocaust survivor, wrote on Twitter.