France Blasts Poland for Holocaust Law: 'You Should Not Rewrite History'


Poland president Andrzej Duda.

Commentators have said that Israel is concerned that the new law could mean penalties for anyone who criticises individual Poles' role in the Holocaust. "On the other hand, my decision takes into account the sensitivity of people for whom the historical truth and the truth about the Holocaust is extremely important".

The incident comes amid a standoff between Poland and Israel over legislation passed in both houses of the Polish Parliament that would criminalize rhetoric blaming Poland for Nazi crimes, including calling death camps set up on Polish soil by the Nazis "Polish death camps".

The law has been criticised by the United States as an attack on free speech, although it provides exemptions for academic researchers and artists. Activists say the passage of the bill has encouraged a rise in anti-Semitism.

Germany operated six camps in Poland where Jews and others whom the Nazis considered enemies were killed.

"Yes the death camps in Poland were built and operated by the Germans, and we can not allow them to evade responsibility for these actions". The legislation provides exemptions for academic research and art.

Duda's spokesman, Krzysztof Lapinski, confirmed the bill had been signed.

"The United States is disappointed that the President of Poland has signed legislation that would impose criminal penalties for attributing Nazi crimes to the Polish state".

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the tensions were a "temporary weakening of relations with Israel and the USA" but that he hoped they would improve after the country explained its position.

"No Polish law will change history, Poland was complicit in the Holocaust", tweeted Israeli politician Yair Lapid, the son of a Holocaust survivor.

Israel's education minister said on Monday he was "honoured" Poland had cancelled his visit to Warsaw this week because he refused to retract his condemnation of the bill.

"For the sake of the values of an open dialogue and free access to sources, we appeal to our Polish colleagues to continue historical discussions on the territory of Ukraine, where there are no restrictions or political imposition of assessments of the past", the statement said.

Former US President Barack Obama stirred controversy in 2012 when he used the phrase while granting a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to a Polish World War II resistance fighter, and later apologized for not using the term "Nazi death camp".

The legislation, which comes at a time of electoral gains for anti-immigrant parties like PiS across Europe, has reopened a painful debate in Poland over the Holocaust.