Polish president signs Holocaust speech legislation into law

Saul Bowman
February 7, 2018

"The adopted amendments do not correspond to the nature and content of the strategic partnership that exists between the countries", said the text of the resolution, which was posted on the Ukrainian parliament's website. The latter has demanded it to be reviewed.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda announced Tuesday that he would sign a controversial Holocaust bill which has sparked tensions with Israel, the US and Ukraine. After analyzing the situation and the bill, I have decided that I will sign it. But at the same time...

The law, said President Duda in a televised speech, "preserves interests of Poland, our dignity and historical truth so that trials against us around world are honest and that we abstain to slander ourselves, as State and as a nation".

The bill foresees jail terms of up to three years for mentioning the term "Polish death camps" and falsely attributing Nazi German crimes at camps such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

Israel's Foreign Ministry says Tuesday it hopes President Andrzej Duda's decision to ask the country's constitutional court to evaluate the bill will allow both sides to "agree on changes and corrections". He says it would be better if Poland said "there was evil done". But the law is expected to take effect before the tribunal would be able to issue any clarifications, and the independence of the tribunal itself has recently been questioned after the Law and Justice Party passed reform plans that critics condemned as an "assault" on the judiciary. And not only did Jews suffer atrocities of Nazi regime during German occupation, hundreds of thousands of Catholic Poles were deported and killed as well.

While Naftali Bennett had planned to speak in Poland on Wednesday to address the new "death camps" law, Polish officials apparently quashed the visit. However, both Israel and the USA have criticised it.

Historians maintain that some Polish individuals did participate in the Holocaust.

The Israeli government has taken the position that while it is true that the Germans ran everything in Poland during World War II, this legislation could put a damper on Holocaust research as well as help cover up the role of many Poles in the persecution and murder of Jews.

The bill's global critics - which include the U.S. State Department and the Israeli government - argue that it violates freedom of expression.

On Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that he would give the final sign-off on the legislation.

The law would make it illegal to accuse the nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust. In addition, MPs point out that frank dialogue, free exchange of opinions and academic freedom are under the threat of criminal prosecution in connection with the adoption of the law "that is incompatible with democratic values".

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