December 13, 2018

Polish Progressive Judaism Group Voices Opposition to Poland’s Holocaust Bill

A Polish progressive Judaism group has voiced opposition to Poland’s drafted bill that would criminalize certain phrases regarding Poland’s role in the Holocaust.

Beit Polska – The Union of Polish Progressive Jewish Communities and the European Union of Jewish Progressivism (EUJP) issued a statement expressing concern about a bill that would subject those who accuse Poland “of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich” to a maximum sentence of three years in prison. It has already passed the Lower House of Poland’s Parliament.

“We agree that it is inappropriate to call German Nazi Death Camps located on Polish soil ‘Polish Death Camps,’ but the legislation as drafted is much wider than that one issue,” the organizations stated. “It also includes legally undefined terms that could be subject to many interpretations with severe consequences. In addition, we consider it draconian and disproportionate for the legislation to impose substantial fines and possible prison sentences for misuse of words.”

They added, “It is important the horrors of the Holocaust are not forgotten and future generations learn from them so that these are never repeated anywhere in the World. The present drafting of the Act has the real danger of inhibiting discussion, investigation and commemoration of the tragic events that took place on Polish soil.”

The organizations called the legislation to either be altered or abolished altogether.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also expressed his opposition to the bill.

“One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” said Netanyahu in a statement.

Outrage to the bill has even extended to Los Angeles, as Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust President Paul Nussbaum issued a statement condemning the bill.

“I am appalled by the efforts of the current Polish government to deny the history of the involvement and collaboration of some Poles in the attempted genocide of the entire Jewish people on Polish soil,” said Nussbaum. “As I expressed to Polish government officials when I visited Poland last summer, we condemn the Poles who helped murder Polish Jews and honor those who rescued Polish Jews. We all must have the courage to face our history, no matter how painful, in order to inspire a better future.”

Polish President Andrezj Duda hasn’t decided on if he’ll sign the law, but he took umbrage to Israel’s criticism of the law and declared that Poland needed to be able fight back against “evident slander.”

As The New York Times pointed out in a recent editorial, while it’s true that the Nazis occupied Poland and are responsible for the death camps, “Poles were directly or indirectly complicit in the crimes committed on their land and that Poles were guilty of anti-Jewish pogroms during and after the war.”

“These are the facts of that terrible history, and the Poles, like all other nations conquered by Germany that became embroiled in the Nazi atrocities, have an obligation to the victims and to the future to seek the full truth, however painful,” the editorial stated.