Poland’s President Andrzej Duda signed into law on Tuesday a bill that imposes jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the Holocaust, prompting strong criticism from Israel and the United States.
The Polish law would impose prison sentences of up to three years for using the phrase “Polish death camps” and for suggesting “publicly and against the facts” that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany’s crimes.
It has yet to receive final approval from the country’s Constitutional Court.
Israel called for the bill to be amended and said that the two countries had a “joint responsibility to research and preserve the memory of the Holocaust”.
The Polish government continued to advance the provocative bill despite the protest of Israel and Jewish groups, who say the legislation could hinder Holocaust research and cover up the role of some Poles in the murder of Jews.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the bill as a “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust”.
Poland says the bill is crucial to stop the country from being liable for the crimes of the Holocaust. It outlaws the term “Polish death camp” to describe Nazi-run extermination camps in the country when it was occupied during World War II.
Dozens of Holocaust survivors on Thursday stormed the Polish Embassy compound in Tel Aviv, waving flags and signs to protest the bill.
The bill was approved by Poland’s lower house of parliament on 26th January, the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and passed the Senate on Wednesday.
France has joined Israel and the US in criticising the “ill advised” text.
More than three million of the 3.2 million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust. Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in occupied Poland – home to Europe’s biggest Jewish community at the time – including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.