Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Poland Senate Approves Holocaust Speech Law

Poland Senate Approves Holocaust Speech Law

WARSAW: Even as international pressure mounted on Poland to back away from a new law that would make it illegal to blame Poles for crimes committed by Nazi Germany, the Senate passed the legislation on Thursday.

The bill, which sets prison penalties for using phrases like “Polish death camps” to refer to concentration camps set up by the Nazis, is subject to the approval of President Andrzej Duda. Supporters are urging him to sign it, even at the risk of rupturing relations with Israel and the United States.

This week, Mr. Duda said that he would review the legislation closely before deciding whether to sign, but he added that he was “absolutely outraged” that the Israeli ambassador had criticized the legislation during a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp on Polish soil.

“I don’t know if there is some misrepresentation or misinformation in regard to how the Israeli side understands parts of this legislation,” Mr. Duda told the state broadcaster on Monday. “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.”

Even Poles who do not support the law consider the phrase “Polish death camps” deeply offensive and historically wrong. A draft of the legislation to ban the phrase has been in the works for more than a year.

“The law is baseless; I strongly oppose it,” the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a statement released on Saturday. “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”

Yair Lapid, leader of a centrist opposition party in Israel and the son of a Holocaust survivor, wrote on Twitter, “There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that.”

Several international organizations have been quick to condemn the law, including Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

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