☰ Menu

Polands Holocaust Law

The Bill is an attempt to crack down on a recurring problem of concentration and extermination camps, operated by occupying Nazis forces in Poland, being described as “Polish”.

The Bill foresees fines and a three-year jail term for “anyone who, against the facts, publicly states that the Polish nation or state was responsible or co-responsible for Third Reich crimes”.
The prime minister cannot be charged under his government’s law because, though it has cleared parliament, it has yet to be signed into law by the president.
According to reports, Israel has recalled its ambassador for consultations over the Bill it claims is an attempt to portray Poles exclusively as Holocaust victims.
The Polish people are among the greatest victims of Nazi violence. About three million of Poland’s 3.2 million Jewish population were murdered in German-built and operated death camps. The Nazis also murdered at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Poles.
But historians point out that anti-Semitism was widespread in wartime Poland and that an estimated 1,000 Jews in Poland were killed by other Poles during and immediately after the second World War.
As his videos went viral online, Mr Morawiecki was touring a museum dedicated to Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, a Polish couple who hid eight Jews in their attic. The couple and their six children were executed by the Nazis in March 1943 after the hideaways were discovered.
The museum’s website says the family were betrayed by a local police officer, believed to have been either Polish or Ukrainian.
The government’s amended Bill has caused uproar in Poland and sparked a new wave of anti-Semitic jokes in sections of the media.

Polish President Andrzej Duda announced on Tuesday he would sign the Holocaust bill into law and refer it to the Constitutional Tribunal, which will examine whether it violates the Polish constitution.

What exactly would the law make illegal in Poland?
The legislation criminalizes any mention of Poles “being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich.” The harshest penalties are reserved for those who refer to Nazi-era concentration camps such as Auschwitz as “Polish death camps.” Only scientific research into the war and artistic work are exempted.

Why has the proposed law become a diplomatic incident?
The bill sparked outrage in Israel after it passed through Poland’s parliament on Jan. 26, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Many in Israel call it an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles had in the detention and killing of around three million Polish Jews during World War II.
“The legislation will not help further the exposure of historical truth and may harm freedom of research, as well as prevent discussion of the historical message and legacy of World War II,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The bill was passed despite assurances from Poland that there would be a dialogue with Israel before the vote took place.

What does the historical record say?
Poland was attacked and occupied in 1939 by Nazi Germany, which led to the building of concentration camps, including Treblinka and Auschwitz, that were operated by the Germans. The Germans killed about 1.9 million non-Jewish civilians and about three million Jews during the occupation of Poland, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. A number of Poles risked their lives to help hide Jews, according to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
But like certain citizens of other nations occupied by Nazi Germany, some Poles were complicit in the Nazi atrocities. According to the POLIN museum, a small minority of Poles either extorted money from Jews hiding from the Germans or outed them. The Nazis also recruited local collaborators to round up Jews for the camps. In addition, there were anti-Semitic pogroms during and after the war. The most infamous happened in 1941 in the town of Jedwabne, in which 400 Jews were set on fire in a barn by their neighbours.

Why Poland is doing this now?
Critics have accused the right-wing government of using the issue to bolster political support. PiS has been accused of pandering to nationalists and the far-right through xenophobic language and tailoring its message to appeal to a spectrum of right-wing voters. PiS’s leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski once said Muslim refugees carried “various parasites and protozoa” and the government’s education minister in 2016 discounted two well-documented massacres of Jews, including Jedwabne, by calling it a matter of “opinion, ” according to the Times of Israel.There has been a resurgence of far-right sentiment in the country. A Polish government pollster found in a November survey that more than one in three polled said they supported far-right activities. That same month, far-right nationalists marched in Warsaw, brandishing slogans and signs that said “Clean Blood,” “White Europe, and “Europe Will Be White.” Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the march was fuelled by “patriotic behaviour of Poles” and displays of xenophobia were “incidents” that were “of course, reprehensible.”