Poland PM tries to defend Holocaust speech law

Poland defends it's version of historic truth

Duda, the Polish president, said this week there was no institutional participation by Poland in the Holocaust, but it did recognize criminal actions toward Jews by some individual Poles.

Poland's deputy chief of mission in Israel, Piotr Kozlowski, said that the goal of the law "is not to whitewash history, but to safeguard it and safeguard the truth about the Holocaust and prevent its distortion".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki to lobby against the legislation and the Israeli government has compared the law to state denial of the Holocaust.

The controversial bill now only needs the signature of the Polish president to become law, at which point anyone referring to "Polish death camps" or Polish collaboration with the Nazis during the Holocaust will risk three years in jail.

The bill does not specifically mention the Holocaust or the Second World War but it criminalizes accusing the Polish state or population for responsibility or complicity in any crime against humanity.

The upper house of parliament voted 57-23, with two abstentions, to approve the bill. Many Poles fought the Nazi occupation and tried to save Jews, but some also helped round them up, stole their property and participated in massacres.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry vigorously opposed the new bill, saying that it opens the possibility of "rewriting history". "We will never restrict freedom of speech regarding the Holocaust".

Even Poles who do not support the law consider the phrase "Polish death camps" deeply offensive and historically wrong.

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The legislation, titled "Act on the Institute of National Remembrance - Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation", effectively imposes a three-year prison sentence for statements that "publicly and against the facts ascribe responsibility or co-responsibility for the crimes perpetrated by the Third German Reich to the Polish nation or the Polish state".

In Poland, however, UPA fighters were seen as death squads responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Poles from what is now western Ukraine.

In 2015, Kiev's parliament gave unprecedented recognition as "Ukrainian independence fighters" to those who served in the UPA.

"On the backdrop of the approval of the bill by the Polish Senate", the ministry said in a statement, "Israel has requested the postponement of the planned visit of the head of the Polish National Security Council". The measure exempts artistic and research work.

During the war, Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany and six million of its citizens were killed, half of them Jews.

Before the Senate's vote, the USA asked Poland to rethink the proposed legislation, saying it could "undermine free speech and academic discourse" and affect ties with the US and Israel.

Polish-Russian ties are tense, and one of the issues straining the ties is Poland's destruction of monuments to the Red Army's victory over Nazism that were built in the country by the former Polish Communist regime.

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