Poland's president signs Holocaust bill into law

Pauline Gross
February 9, 2018

Poland's President Andrzej Duda has signed into law legislation that outlaws blaming Poles for the Holocaust committed on Polish territory by Nazi Germany.

Hours after the law was signed, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was "disappointed" in Duda's decision.

The law also criminalizes people from referring to concentration camps on Polish soil as "Polish death camps." .

Duda said he would ask the country's Constitutional Tribunal to review the bill to ensure it doesn't infringe on freedom of speech.

The Polish measure would impose prison sentences of up to three years for mentioning the term "Polish death camps" and for suggesting "publicly and against the facts" that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany's crimes. "We believe that open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering misleading speech", he added. Duda also said he would also request Poland's constitutional court to evaluate the bill, leaving the door open for amendments. The Nazis operated six extermination camps in Poland, including the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Bloch, who spent his post-Holocaust years working in the vineyards of Holocaust remembrance, serving as an executive of the World Jewish Congress/Jewish Agency, and as a lay leader of a host of Jewish and Israel-centered organizations, kept the memory and lessons of the Holocaust alive in days when he was a minority in the survivor community.

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In the announcement of the visit, Bennett said that while in Poland, he was "determined to say explicitly what history has already proved - the Polish nation had a proven involvement in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust".

The bill's worldwide critics argue that it violates freedom of expression. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared last week that "we have no tolerance for the distortion of the truth and rewriting history or denying the Holocaust". But many Poles all over their country informed, handed over or participated themselves in the murder of some 200,000 Jews during the Holocaust and even afterward", the statement also said, adding: "Only a few thousand "Righteous Among the Nations" risked their lives to save them. About 6 million Polish citizens were killed during World War II, about half of them Jews.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the right-wing Law & Justice party, called for Duda to sign the legislation.

But historians have long argued that it is not the full story: Some Poles, they say, were complicit in the Nazi crimes.

On Wednesday it is set to offer a new feature to enable users to draw Polish Radio's attention to anti-Polish defamatory content, such as the use of the phrase "Polish death camps".

Other reports by GizPress

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