Poland’s legislature passed a measure on January 25 that would outlaw calling Poland complicit in Nazi Germany’s war crimes during World War II and ban the use of the term “Polish death camps.” The ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party advocated the bill, drawing backlash from the Israeli government and Jewish rights groups.
The Senate of the Polish Parliament passed the bill by a 57-23 vote with only two abstentions. The bill dictates that the use of the term “Polish death camps” or the suggestion of Polish complicity during the war be met with a prison sentence of up to three years. On February 6, the bill was signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda despite significant foreign opposition.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the bill is a “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history, and the denial of the Holocaust,” according to RT. The Israeli ambassador to Poland also condemned the bill in a speech at Auschwitz. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance, a government-affiliated research institute, then accused Israeli authorities of interfering inappropriately in state affairs.
The United States, an ally to both Israel and Poland, said the new law could damage Polish-U.S. relations, according to Radio Poland.
The Polish president’s chief of staff, Krzysztof Szczerski, replied to the condemnations by the U.S. and other countries by saying that any accusations that the Polish nation participated in the genocide cannot be accepted and that “defending the truth is impossible when the lies remain unchallenged.”
In Jerusalem, the majority of the Israeli legislature is pushing for new legislation that could accuse Poland of Holocaust denial, according to the Jerusalem Post.
More than three million of Poland’s pre-war Jewish population of 3.2 million were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for more than half of Jewish Holocaust victims, according to the Jerusalem Post. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also reports that nearly two million non-Jewish Poles were also murdered by the Nazis during World War II.