Polish Parliament's Lower House Votes to Criminalize Mention of Polish Crimes in the Holocaust

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Jews await 'selection' at the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, Poland, May 1944.
Jews await 'selection' at the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, Poland, May 1944.Credit: Ernst Hofmann / Bernhard Walte

>>UPDATE (January 28): Polish PM defends new Holocaust law: 'Auschwitz-Birkenau, Arbeit Macht Frei are not Polish'

The lower house of the Polish parliament has approved a controversial bill that would forbid any mention of participation of the "Polish nation" in crimes committed during the Holocaust. The bill would also bar use of the term "Polish death camp" to describe the death camps where Jews and others were murdered in Nazi-occupied Poland during the World War II.

Anyone who violates the legislation, including non-Polish citizens, would be subject to a fine or imprisonment of up to three years, The bill still requires approval by the upper house of parliament before it becomes law. 

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According to the bill approved on Friday by the lower house, anyone who publicly attributes guilt or complicity to the Polish state for crimes committed by Nazi Germany, war crimes or other crimes against humanity, would be subject to criminal proceedings. Punishment would also be imposed on those who are seen to "deliberately reduce the responsibility of the 'true culprits' of these crimes." 

>> Polish embassy tries to school Israeli lawmaker on Holocaust, gets lesson in humility: 'My grandmother was murdered in Poland' <<

The bill would apply both to Polish citizens and to foreigners regardless which country the statement is supposed to have been made in.

Some lawmakers have taken to Twitter to call it out. Emmanuel Nahshon, the spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, tweeted that it was "amazing and sad [that] the Polish embassy trying to preach to us about the memory of the Holocaust." 

The implication of the new bill means that in theory, a Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland who lives in Israel, who may make a statement such as "the Polish people were involved in the murder of my grandfather in the Holocaust," or "my mother was murdered in a Polish extermination camp," would be liable for imprisonment in Poland.

Polish Deputy Justice Minister Patrick Yaki told parliament on Friday: "Every day, around the world, the term 'Polish extermination camps' is used - in other words, the crimes of Nazi Germany are attributed to the Poles. So far Poland has not been able to effectively combat this kind of insult against the Polish nation."

The law has yet to be passed by the Senate and the Polish president, however is considered to have passed its largest hurdle.

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