Friday, 23 February, 2018

How past wounds fuel debate over Polish law

Far-Right Groups Demand Polish President Sign Holocaust Bill Polish Nazis: just idiots or an instrument of Germany's propaganda machine?
Andrew Cummings | 07 February, 2018, 01:06

But in a move that appeared created to soften the impact of his decision, President Andrzej Duda said he would also ask Poland's constitutional court to evaluate the bill - leaving open the possibility it would be amended.

Last week, on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Polish parliament passed a bill which would make public statements suggesting Polish complicity in Nazi atrocities a crime punishable by up to three years in jail.

Poland could be assured that "every form of historical falsification such as the term "Polish concentration camps" runs into clear rejection on our part and will be sharply condemned", Gabriel added. Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust.

The United States, too, has been highly critical of the law, suggesting that it could jeopardize Poland's strategic relations with Israel and the US.

Israel's education minister said on Monday he was "honoured" Poland had cancelled his visit to Warsaw this week because he refused to retract his condemnation of the bill. It is unclear whether the PiS controlled Constitutional Tribunal will call for changes.

"The Polish government canceled my visit to Poland because I mentioned the crimes of its people".

Bennett arranged the trip to Poland without coordinating it with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, but on a personal invitation from Jonny Daniels, a London-born Israeli activist for Holocaust commemoration, according to a report in Haaretz.

"I am determined to clearly say that history has already confirmed that the people of Poland had a proven involvement in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust", Bennett had told reporters in his statement Monday.

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The bill prescribes penalties for those who blame Poles as a nation for crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II. The law will enter into force after signing by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Poland's ruling party, the conservative PiS, has said the bill is needed to protect Poland's reputation and ensure historians recognize that Poles, as well as Jews, were victims of the Nazis.

"This may sound provocative, but I think you couldn't have survived on this land without the help of a Polish family", he continued.

Israel slammed the new proposed legislation, emphasizing that Poland was instrumental in the extermination of Jews during World War II.

"One can not change history, and the Holocaust can not be denied", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement last week.

Washington has also criticized the legislation. In the past week, she said, the term "Polish death camps", which it seeks to outlaw, has exploded on Twitter and other social media outlets.

The prevailing view in Israel and among Holocaust scholars is that many Poles were willing to at least look the other way, if not actively collaborate, with the Nazis. I accepted an invitation to a dialogue based on truth.

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