Polish lawmakers approved draft legislation on Thursday penalizing suggestions of any complicity by Poland in the Nazi Holocaust on its soil during World War Two, defying history and criticism by Israel and the United States.
The proposal has triggered a diplomatic spat between Israel and Warsaw’s conservative government since its initial approval in the lower house of parliament last week, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it an effort to change history.
The US State Department urged Poland on Wednesday to re-evaluate the draft law, expressing concern about consequences on Warsaw’s relations with the United States and Israel if the draft becomes law.
Under the proposed legislation, violators would face three years in prison for a mention of “Polish death camps” to refer to the Polish death camps, although scientific research into World War Two would not be constrained.
The Senate voted on the draft bill in the early hours on Thursday and it will now be sent to President Andrzej Duda for a final signature.
Poland’s PAP news agency reported 57 senators voted for the draft bill, with 23 against and two abstentions.
The Polish government has said the legislation aims to stop the Polish people or state being blamed for Nazi crimes.
The United States said, however, the legislation “could undermine free speech and academic discourse. We all must be careful not to inhibit discussion and commentary on the Holocaust”.
“We believe open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering inaccurate and hurtful speech,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“We are also concerned about the repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships … We encourage Poland to re-evaluate the legislation,” Nauert said.
A Polish TV host has suggested that World War II death camps in Poland be referred to as “Jewish death camps” instead of Polish or German, while a journalist intimated on his program that Jews played a part in the Nazi Final Solution.
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