Published: Sat, February 03, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Holocaust bill row: Angry Israel calls off visit by Polish security chief

Holocaust bill row: Angry Israel calls off visit by Polish security chief

The bill proposed by Poland's ruling conservative party calls for up to three years in prison for any intentional attempt to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or people. "They don't want to ruin their relationship with the United States".

Reiterating that the term "Polish death camps" was indeed erroneous, Yad Vashem said that nevertheless "the correct way to combat these historical misrepresentations is not by criminalising these statements but by reinforcing educational activities". He went out of his way to praise his hosts and avoided directly criticising the government's record on the rule of law. "But we, as a state, as a nation, have a right to defend ourselves from an evident slander, an evident falsification of historical truth, which, in this case, for us is a slap in the face".

Polish President Andrzej Duda now has 21 days to sign the bill into law. The legislation allows exceptions for academic research and works of art.

She also denounced the bill as "revolting" in a speech on January 27 that marked the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and which came a day after the lower house of the Polish parliament approved the legislation. The move, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, seemed planned to provoke a reaction.

Transport Minister Israel Katz said "the law constitutes the renunciation of responsibility and denial of Poland's part in the Holocaust". Asked about the postponed visit to Israel this week of the head of the Polish National Security Bureau, Paweł Soloch, the foreign minister said that the trip "would have been inappropriate" given the current tense climate between the two nations.

After the Polish Senate (upper house) passed the bill overnight on Thursday, Israel's Foreign Ministry said Israel vehemently opposes the legislation and "takes a grim view of any attempt to undermine historic truth". "No law will change the facts".

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Israeli journalist Lahav Harkov wrote a tweet simply repeating "Polish death camps" 14 times. But Poland, unlike France, Hungary and other nations, never officially collaborated with Nazi Germany, and suffered tremendously during the war. Millions of Polish citizens, including many who were not Jewish, died in these camps, among them university professors and Catholic priests, both groups deliberately targeted for extinction. On Thursday, the American embassy in Poland said it was "concerned about the repercussions" for bilateral relations of legislation in Warsaw about the Holocaust.

I could be subject to arrest if Poland's lawmakers have any say in the matter. This is so unnecessary.

"We have to send a clear signal to the world that we won't allow Poland to continue being insulted", Patryk Jaki, a deputy justice minister, told reporters in parliament.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and a former Polish prime minister, suggested in a Twitter post on Thursday that the Polish government was guilty of the very thing the law was meant to fight.

Duda, the Polish president, said this week there was no institutional participation by Poland in the Holocaust, but it did recognize criminal actions toward Jews by some individual Poles.

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