The Polish Senate has approved a controversial bill that would prohibit accusing the Poles of being complicit in the Nazi Holocaust. In addition, it would make it illegal to describe the Nazi death camps in Poland, such as Auschwitz, as being Polish, with penalties ranging from fines to up to three years imprisonment. The bill has passed the upper house of the Polish parliament with 57 votes to 23 and with two abstaining, according to AGP. The country’s president, Andrzej Duda, said that Poland has the right “to defend historical truth.”
This proposal bill, which must be signed off by the president before becoming law, has caused tension with Israel whose Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused Poland of attempting to change history. Opposition MP Tzipi Livini of the Zionist Union Party called it “a spit in the face of Israel.” A few days before the announcement, the Polish president has promised to engage in talks with Israel over the bill amid the outcry.
Israeli MPs are now backing a bill to expand its existing Holocaust denial laws to include a five-year minimum jail sentence for anyone who minimises or denies the role of Nazi collaborators, including those from occupied countries such as France and Poland.
“We are very sad and surprised our fight for the truth, for the dignity of Poles, is perceived and interpreted in this way,” said Polish Senate speaker Stanislaw Karczweski.
“Poland is a democratic state of law which respects the freedom of public debate, scientific research, and the right to criticism,” Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Warchol said, adding that it would be incorrect to suggest that the law would prevent people from researching Poland’s history.