The Trump administration says it is concerned Poland’s proposed Holocaust law could impact free speech and Polish relations with the United States and Israel.
The law would make it a crime to call the Nazi genocide of Jews a Polish crime, or the Nazi death camps Polish death camps, even though some of the most brutal Nazi atrocities took place on Polish soil.
“We understand that phrases such as ‘Polish death camps’ are inaccurate, misleading, and hurtful,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Wednesday. “We all must be careful not to inhibit discussion and commentary on the Holocaust. We believe open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering inaccurate and hurtful speech.”
Israel, others concerned
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will not tolerate “distortion of the truth, rewriting history, and denial of the Holocaust.”
Some experts fear the new Polish law could also mean jail for Holocaust survivors when talking about their ordeals.
Polish President Andrzej Duda 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.
“There were wicked people who sold their neighbors for money. But it was not the Polish nation, it was not an organized action,” Duda said.
He pointed out that some Poles sacrificed their lives to save Jews from the Nazis, and that the Polish underground and government in exile resisted efforts to wipe out European Jewry.
Poland was home to one of the world’s most thriving Jewish populations before Nazi Germany invaded in 1939.
Holocaust survivors who returned to Poland after the war found themselves victims of further anti-Semitism. Some historians say many Poles collaborated with the Nazis in persecuting Jews.
Poland regards itself as having been a victim of Nazi terror. It resents being blamed for crimes carried out by Hitler and his gang of murderers.