Poland Receives Push for Controversial “Holocaust Responsibility Bill”

AJC Central Europe is urging Polish lawmakers to reconsider their adoption of a controversial bill regarding Holocaust accountability. The bill, which amends the Institute of National Remembrance law, makes it a crime, punishable by up to three years in prison, to use statements, such as “Polish death camps,” suggesting Poland bears any responsibility for crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany.

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“It is a very sad day for Poland when lawmakers adopt a measure that has provoked the biggest crisis since 1989 in Polish-Jewish relations, as well as in Poland’s bilateral ties to Israel and to Poland’s chief western ally, the United States,” said Agnieszka Markiewicz, Director of AJC Central Europe. “President Duda has an opportunity to defuse this crisis by not signing the bill, and suggesting steps be taken to work with the Jewish community, Israel and the U.S. to repair the relations.”

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The U.S. State Department and the bipartisan congressional Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism have urged Poland to reconsider the bill. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “We encourage Poland to reevaluate the legislation in light of its potential impact on the principle of free speech and on our ability to be effective partners.”

The Polish Parliament’s lower chamber adopted the measure last Friday, on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Senate passed it Wednesday, despite a concerted effort by the Israeli and Polish governments to ameliorate the tense situation.

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“It is stunning that Senators chose to vote without making any effort to allow for dialogue between the Polish and Israeli governments, or to consider the damage this measure may well cause to relations with the U.S. and world Jewry,” said Markiewicz. “Many Holocaust survivors fear they may be punished if they tell their personal stories in which Poles are described as perpetrators rather than friends or helpers.”

Markiewicz urged “Poland and Israel to pursue talks. We hope that, despite the unfortunate action of the Polish Parliament, and some of the reaction from Israel, both countries will continue efforts to avert a tragic regression in the critically important relationships and understandings that have been achieved in recent years.”

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