An Argentinian newspaper has become the first outlet to be targeted by Poland’s new Holocaust denial law, after a nationalist group filed a case on Friday hours after the legislation went live.
The law, which went into effect Thursday, sets fines or up to three years in jail for anyone ascribing “responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich”.
The main aim is to downplay Poland’s role in Nazi atrocities and make the use of phrases such as “Polish Death Camps” to refer to the Polish death camps, punishable.
On Friday the Polish League Against Defamation (RDI), a non-profit which is close to Poland’s conservative government, lodged a case under the new law against the website of Pagina 12, a newspaper in Argentina.
The article dealt with the Jedwabne pogrom. For dozens of years after the war, Polish communist authorities attempted to cover up the role played by Poles in the massacre, choosing instead to point the finger at Nazi special units.
A report published by historian Jan Tomasz Gross in 2011, however, claimed that the Poles carried out the massacre themselves, in which some 1,600 Jews were killed.
RDI accused the newspaper and its journalist Federico Pavlovsky of “an action intended to harm the Polish nation and the good reputation of Polish soldiers”.
The editor of Pagina 12, the Argentinian newspaper sued by Polish authorities under its new Holocaust law, said on Sunday, “If we are pressured, we will print this article again.” Interviewed by the Israel public broadcasting corporation, he said the suit was a message to the European press and to the Polish press.”
The legislation has drawn widespread international criticism and ignited an unprecedented diplomatic row with Israel.
Israel have expressed concerns that the legislation could open the door to prosecuting Holocaust survivors for their testimony should it concern the involvement of individual Poles in killing or giving up Jews to the Germans.
PM Netanyahu said that Israel has “no tolerance for the distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
While the law has already gone into force, Poland has made it clear it will not be enforced until talks with Israel conclude and a decision is reached in the country’s constitutional court, which will then refer the law to President Andrzej Duda for reinspection.
Yair Lapid, the chairman of the Yesh Atid party, is opposed to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to negotiate with the Polish prime minister on the “Polish Law.”
“There is no negotiating over the memory of those who perished. This law should simply be buried in the soil of Poland, which is saturated with the blood of Jews,” Lapid said.