Poland’s Senate has backed legislation that will regulate Holocaust speech, a move that has already strained relations with both Israel and the United States.
The bill proposed by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party and voted for early Thursday could see individuals facing up to three years in prison for intentionally attempting to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish nation as a whole. It was approved by the lower house last week.
Though the bill exempts artistic and research work, it has raised concerns that the Polish state will decide itself what it considers to be historic facts. The bill has already sparked a diplomatic dispute with Israel and drawn calls from the United States for a reconsideration.
Senators voted 57-23 in favor of the bill with two abstentions. To become law, the bill requires approval from President Andrzej Duda, who supports it.
Poland’s government says it is fighting against the use of phrases like “Polish death camps” to refer to death camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. Poland was among the hardest-hit victims of Nazi Germany and is preserving Holocaust memorials.
Expressing surprise at the storm the legislation has unleashed, the Polish government said it was to issue an explanatory statement later Thursday.
Though Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki suggested Israel had been consulted on the bill and voiced no objections, many in Israel have argued that the move is an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.
Halina Birenbaum, a Holocaust survivor and acclaimed Israeli author, called the new law “madness,” telling Israel’s Army Radio it was “ludicrous and disproportionate to what actually happened to Jews there.”
The longer the Holocaust slides into history the more distorted the lies. Fact Polish citizens helped the Nazis as did some risk their lives to protect them. Fact after the war Jews returning “home” were slaughtered by those who were occupying their homes and other racist pigs. You should all be ashamed, and working to improve tolerance instead of trying to change history.
I can understand being thrown in jail for inciting violence. But incarcerating people for speech, but legislating speech is a very very bad idea and throwing people in jail for speaking their mind doesn’t help anyone. And when you’re locking away voices of dissent, it really makes one wonder what you’re trying to hide.