Poland's president to sign controversial Holocaust bill

Poland's president to sign controversial Holocaust bill

Poland's president to sign controversial Holocaust bill

Poland's nationalist government is in the process of enacting legislation to criminalize speech that "claims, publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich".

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.

Last week, the State Department urged Poland to consider changing or pulling the bill, saying it could affect Warsaw's "strategic interests" and relationships with the US and Israel.

Many of Poland's conservative lawmakers and commentators are now accusing Israelis and American Jews of using the issue as a pretext for getting money from Poland for prewar Jewish property seized in the communist era.

He said the decision "preserves the interests of Poland, our dignity and the historical truth" and also "takes into account the sensitivity of those for whom the question of historical memory of the Holocaust remains exceptionally important, especially those who have survived and who, as long as they can, should tell the world about this past and their experience".

Poland's President Andrzej Duda says that artistic and historical research work will be exempted from a disputed bill that penalizes blaming Poland for complicity in Nazi Germany's crimes.

"It is a sad day for Poland", said Agnieszka Markiewicz, director of AJC's Warsaw-based Central Europe office.

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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.

Duda said simultaneously that he would refer the law to Poland's highest court so it can assess whether the new rules are in line with the constitution. The law has sparked aggressive disputes within Poland as well as overseas.

"We will certainly talk about our common history soon", Joanna Kopcinska, the spokeswoman, said in a statement sent to Reuters.

Jewish groups in the United States have accused the Polish government of "engaging in denial". Approximately 6 million Polish citizens were killed during World War II, about half of them Jews.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US understands that phrases like "Polish death camps" are "inaccurate, misleading, and hurtful", but voiced concern the legislation could undermine free speech and academic discourse.

The country's Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely warned last month it could be a "slippery slope" that could be used to "minimise the responsibility of those Poles who participated in the war crimes committed by the Nazis".

The bill will also make it illegal to deny the murder of about 100,000 Poles by units of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during World War Two, a move likely to increase tensions with neighbouring Ukraine.

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