After Holocaust Law, Polish Citizens Abroad Asked to Report anti-Polish Sentiment

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A sign reading "Stop!" in German and Polish at the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2018.
A sign reading "Stop!" in German and Polish at the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2018.Credit: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Poland's senate leader has appealed to Poles living abroad to report to the authorities any statements deemed to hurt "Poland's good name" — part of a wider campaign by the government to defend the country against what it calls historical untruth and slander.

The letter, posted recently on the Senate's website and reported by German media Thursday, is linked to a controversial new law that penalizes publicly and falsely attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish nation. The government insists it is not to block historical research, but critics say its wording is unclear.

In response to the request, Israeli lawmaker Revital Sweed said Israelis should report their feelings on Polish involvement in the Holocaust to the Polish embassy in Israel.

"I call to Israelis: call the Polish diplomats in Israel and tell them what you think about Poland's involvement in the crimes of the Holocaust. Then we can help the Polish diplomat tell his senate what he hears in Israel," she said.  

Israel has vehemently protested the law, adopted earlier this month, saying it could limit discussion about the Holocaust and whitewash the role some Poles played during Germany's occupation of Poland from 1939 to 1945. The United States has also expressed "disappointment" over the law.

Observers say the campaign, which also includes ads on YouTube, is a means for the ruling Law and Justice party to consolidate its power by rallying voters around the idea that Poland needs to be defended against a hostile outside world.

In his letter sent last week to Polish organizations in the world, Senate Speaker Stanislaw Karczewski appealed to millions of their members to "document and react" to signs of anti-Polish sentiment and "statements and opinions that hurt (Poland's good name)" and to report them to Polish diplomatic missions.

The letter acknowledges individual Poles committed shameful deeds during the war, but that they were not typical of the entire nation.

In Germany, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party called the letter "regrettable."

"This partisan tactic consists in spreading the feeling in Poland that they're being treated unjustly abroad," Norbert Roettgen told the Thursday issue of the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung.

"This political behavior by the government and by the (Law and Justice) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski is a shame and very regrettable," he added.

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