WASHINGTON - Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says Poland will "never limit the debate" on the Holocaust, saying the country owes it to the victims.
Morawiecki gave a televised address Thursday just after the Senate passed a controversial law making it a crime to call the Nazi genocide of Jews a Polish crime and Nazi death camps Polish death camps, even though some of the most brutal Nazi atrocities took place in Poland.
The law awaits President Andrzej Duda's signature.
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"Our government condemns all the crimes of the Second World War committed on Polish soil regardless of the nationalities of their perpetrators and to which nation the victims belonged," the prime minister said. "Fighting against false claims about the participation of the Polish state in the German war machine, Poland stands on the side of the truth."
Poland regards itself as having been a victim of Nazi terror. Morawiecki pointed out that six million Poles were killed during World War II, three million of them Jews.
Morawiecki's televised speech was also aimed at easing concerns of the United States and cooling down the outrage in Israel.
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.
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.
"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 own 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. However, some historians say many Poles collaborated with the Nazis in persecuting Jews.
Holocaust survivors who returned to Poland after the war found themselves victims of further anti-Semitism.