Polish President Duda ‘will sign’ controversial Holocaust bill
Polish president Duda says he will sign a controversial Holocaust bill, despite strong protests from Israel and the US.
Andrzej Duda defended the legislation, which will make it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in Nazi crimes committed under occupation.
The Polish government says it aims to stop the Polish nation or state being blamed for the atrocities. Israel is worried the law could stifle the truth about the role of some Poles involved in it and says it hopes Poland will amend it.
There are also fears Holocaust survivors could face criminal charges for giving testimony that incriminates Poles. In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Duda said the bill “protects the Polish interests… protects our dignity, the historical truth, so that we could be judged fairly in the world so that we would not be slandered as a state and as a nation”.
He acknowledged that individual Poles did commit crimes against Jews during World War Two. But he said the Polish state bore no responsibility because it ceased to exist following the invasion by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. He said there had been no systematic collaboration of Polish institutions.
In a gesture to Israel, Mr Duda said he would send it to the Constitutional Tribunal to check whether its regulations comply with the Polish constitution.
What does the bill state?
It says that “whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich… shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years”.
But it adds the caveat that a person “is not committing a crime if he or she commits such an act as part of artistic or scientific activities”. Poland’s Senate approved the bill last week.
The country has long objected to the use of phrases like “Polish death camps”, which suggest the Polish state in some way shared responsibility for camps such as Auschwitz.
The camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany after it invaded Poland in 1939.
What Israel has to say?
Israel is furious about the bill, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described as an attempt to rewrite history and deny the Holocaust. After Mr Duda’s speech, the foreign ministry said on Twitter it hoped Poland would still amend the text in the period until the constitutional court makes its decision.
We hope that within allotted time until the court’s deliberations are concluded, we will manage to agree on changes and corrections.
Israel and #Poland hold a joint responsibility to research and preserve the history of the Holocaust.
— Israel Foreign Min. (@IsraelMFA) February 6, 2018
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely warned last month it could be a “slippery slope” that could be used to “minimise the responsibility of those Poles who participated in the war crimes committed by the Nazis”.
Deputies from across Israel’s often fractious political spectrum have united to denounce it.
On Monday, Israel’s education minister said Poland had cancelled his scheduled visit to the country because he refused to back down from condemning the bill.
“The government of Poland cancelled my visit because I mentioned the crimes of its people. I am honoured,” Naftali Bennett said in a statement.
ממשלת פולין ביטלה את ביקורי המתוכנן בגלל שהזכרתי את אחריות הפולנים לרצח כ200,000 יהודים בשואה.
לכבוד הוא לי.
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) February 5, 2018
Poland’s Government canceled the planned visits because I mentioned Polish responsibility for killing about 200,000 Jews in the Holocaust. Honored
His Facebook post says
Polish Jewish blood cries out from the earth and no law will shut it up.
Now, the next generation has an important lesson to learn about the holocaust with us, and I will make sure they learn it.
This decision of the polish government would be a great part of the holocaust lessons, even if we were going to get something else.
Indeed, the extermination camps in Poland were established by the Germans, and they should not be allowed to escape this responsibility.
But many poles all over their country snitched, surrender or participated in the murder of 200,000 Jews in the holocaust and even after.
Only a few thousand hasidic nations risked their lives for saving.
It’s the truth.
I accepted a dialogue based on truth.
The Government of Poland has chosen to escape this truth.
No legislation will change the past.
As Minister of education of the Jewish state, I will stand upright because I am not allowed to condone the dignity of the victims
With Israel live
The US state department had also urged the Polish government to rethink the bill.
Where do Poles stand?
Polish politicians have expressed bafflement at the Israeli response.
Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Warchol said it was wrong to suggest the bill would stop people researching Polish history. Meanwhile, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country was committed to combating lies about the Holocaust.
“The camps where millions of Jews were murdered were not Polish. This truth needs to be protected,” he said.
Poland is governed by a nationalist party, Law and Justice (PiS), which is keen to show the world how Poland was ruthlessly victimised by its German and Soviet neighbours in the war.
What happened in Poland in WW2?
Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany. Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust. Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust overall.
More Poles have been honoured by Israel for saving the lives of Jews during the war than any other nation. However, historians say others were complicit by acts such as informing on Jews in hiding for rewards and participating in Nazi-instigated massacres including in Jedwabne where hundreds of Jews were murdered by their neighbours.
A historian and well-known “Nazi-hunter” at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, says the number of collaborators runs into “many thousands”.
“The Polish state was not complicit in the Holocaust, but many Poles were,” Mr Zuroff told the Times of Israel.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team