Polish President Signs Controversial Holocaust Bill

Becky Kelly details the new legislation passed in Poland, relating to their involvement in the Holocaust. 

On Thursday, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the controversial new bill deeming it illegal to implicate Poland in Nazi war crimes, primarily the Holocaust, during the years of World War II.

The bill effectively changes the way in which people can refer to concentration camps located in Poland such as Auschwitz, Treblinka and Belzec, as it criminalises referring to such as “Polish death camps”, which has long been a concern of Polish politicians.

The decision to implement this new law states that those in violation, could face a fine or up to three years prison time.

Fears have also risen over the bill’s potential failure to protect Holocaust survivors attempting to tell their stories or testify against war criminals. As stated by President Duda himself, the concern is: “that it will not be possible to tell the truth — that it will gag the survivors.”

The bill has been met global criticism, particularly from France, the US and Israel.  French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian criticised the bill stating that: “You should not rewrite history, it is never a very good idea.”

Israel in particular has expressed concerns over the signing of the bill. A spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that: “Israel and Poland hold a joint responsibility to research and preserve the History of the Holocaust.”

The president has stated that the bill will be reviewed and is open to potential alterations in the future. It is also said that the law will not prevent publication of historical works or works of art depicting Poland and the Holocaust.

“One of the worst types of this lie occurs when someone diminishes the responsibility of real perpetrators and attributes that responsibility to their victims”

On February 2, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Dublin shared a video of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described as explaining “the history of Poland and the role Poland plays in telling the truth about Holocaust.”

In the video, Morawiecki states that: “Poland in its entirety was under a dual German and Soviet occupation. Practically every Polish family mourned the loss of loved ones who perished at the hands of these occupying powers.

“Holocaust denial is not only denial of German crimes, but also other ways of falsifying history. One of the worst types of this lie occurs when someone diminishes the responsibility of real perpetrators and attributes that responsibility to their victims. We want to fight against this lie.”

In a closing statement the Prime Minister affirms that: “Today as the world must once again fight against new waves of anti-Semitism, the Polish government states its position clearly; there is no room for hatred or the distortion of history.”

The bill in question was first discussed in 2015 but was not approved until January 26 of this year, the day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which Polish Ambassador for Israel described as particularly surprising and unfortunate“.

Poland is home to several of the mass extermination camps from World War II, most notably Auschwitz. It is estimated that as many as one in six Jews killed during the Holocaust died in this camp. The Holocaust is said to have claimed the lives of six million European Jews during the reign of Hitler and the Third Reich.

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