Despite Pressure, Poland's President to Sign Controversial Holocaust Bill

Frederick Owens
February 9, 2018

The incident comes amid a standoff between Poland and Israel over legislation passed in both houses of the Polish Parliament that would criminalize rhetoric blaming Poland for Nazi crimes, including calling death camps set up on Polish soil by the Nazis "Polish death camps". Tillerson said in a statement that Washington frowns upon Duda's authorization of the law.

Polish government officials argued the law was needed to discourage the use of expressions such as "Polish death camps" to refer to the camps Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.

Duda also said he would send the law, which will come into force, to the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether it conforms with constitutional guarantees on freedom of speech. "Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry". "We believe that open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering misleading speech", he added.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the tensions were a "temporary weakening of relations with Israel and the USA" but that he hoped they would improve after the country explained its position.

Poland is the location of several former concentration campus, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, where 1 million people - nearly all of them Jews - were systematically killed in World War II. Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust.

The bill has drawn criticism from the United States and condemnation from a number of worldwide organizations as well as Polish minority groups. "Israel and Poland hold a joint responsibility to research and preserve the history of the Holocaust", the Israeli government said in a statement on Twitter.

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The State Department made those points in a statement issued last week, and spokesperson Heather Nauert added that the legislation could have consequences for "Poland's strategic interests and relationships".

According to figures from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis, who invaded Poland in 1939, also killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum in the U.S., however, said many Polish citizens "were complicit in the crimes against Jews", even as it acknowledged that thousands of Poles also risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors.

The objective of the legislation is to counter accusations of Polish anti-Semitism during World War II, which the government deems unfair.

Poland is governed by a nationalist party, Law and Justice (PiS), which is keen to show the world how Poland was victimised by its German and Soviet neighbours in the war.

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