Published: Sat, February 03, 2018

Holocaust speech: Using term 'Polish death camp' could land you in prison

Holocaust speech: Using term 'Polish death camp' could land you in prison

Poland is poised to enact a bill that would impose up to three years of jail time on anyone who uses phrases such as "Polish death camps" to refer to the Nazi concentration camps located in the country during the Holocaust. The bill has already sparked a diplomatic dispute with Israel and drawn calls from the United States for a reconsideration.

A recent commentator on the state-run TVP station had made the ironic statement that "we could say these camps were neither German nor Polish but Jewish".

"We have restrained ourselves from reaction, but we feel we should no more". Polish President Andrzej Duda now has 21 days to sign it into law.

Ashkenazy told dziennik.pl that he congratulated Poland for the bill, which was passed in the lower house last week and drew fierce criticism from Israel.

"The history of the Holocaust is painful and complex".

In its annual report on anti-Semitism, Israel's Ministry for Diaspora Affairs said that the number of recorded anti-Semitic attacks documented in Ukraine in 2017 surpassed the tally of all such incidents in the entire former Soviet Union.

No law, it added, "will change the facts".

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, reiterates and emphasises that the term "Polish death camps" is erroneous.

Poland was invaded and occupied by Germany in 1939, but unlike in neighboring countries, there was no collaborationist government in Warsaw.

Israel has no right to interfere in Poland's legislative process, the founder of a Jewish cultural organisation has told dziennik.pl, while adding that he is grateful that Israel has drawn global attention to the fact that there were no "Polish death camps".


Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz admitted on Friday that relations with Israel had been strained as a result of the dispute over the legislation.

The US State Department has also expressed concern saying the bill may be a threat to freedom of speech in the country. The body, controlled by the governing Law and Justice party, moved swiftly, ignoring all of the opposition's amendments.

He then sat down with reporters to explain his thoughts on the law.

"How is it that nobody had foreseen that it was a bad idea to accept this bill on the eve of the anniversary of International Holocaust Remembrance Day?"

"There are now [references to] "Polish death camps" all over the place", Senator Anna Maria Anders said during Thursday's debate. "We can not forget, not the Nazis and not those who cooperated with them", the Jewish Press quoted him as saying. "And now we have a awful, bad worldwide crisis".

Working groups in Poland and Israel are to start discussing the issue this week, although it was not clear what effect it could have on the bill.

Officials in Poland's right-wing nationalist government see the bill as a way to defend national pride. This is so unnecessary.

He insisted the law - which has been passed by parliament and awaits the president's signature - would not impinge on freedom of speech, as feared by some.

"Who spreads false accusations about the "Polish camps" damages Poland's good name and interests", he wrote.

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