French FM says Polish Holocaust law 'ill-advised'

Understanding Poland's record during the Holocaust
Despite Pressure, Poland's President to Sign Controversial Holocaust Bill
Author

09 February, 2018

"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", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. The Law and Justice party's emphasis on Poland's heroic past has proved an effective domestic electoral strategy, even as it has faced a damaging global backlash after accusations of having emboldened the far right. "But in the past few days, the term "Polish death camp" has probably been used more than ever in the past years".

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has described the tensions as a "temporary weakening of relations with Israel and the USA" but added that he hoped for an improvement soon after Poland "will explain our position".

He also noted that the changes introduced were not a new law and that they had been discussed during the year, including with Israel. Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in Poland, including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. We understand this law will be referred to Poland's Constitutional Tribunal.

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed controversial legislation making it illegal to blame his country for any role in the Nazi Holocaust.

"[The bill]... protects Polish interests... our dignity, the historical truth... so that we are not slandered as a state and as a nation". Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust.

His comments follow a warning by the State Department last week that such legislation could result in "repercussions" for Poland's relationship with the U.S. "The resulting divisions that may arise among our allies benefit only our rivals".

Russian pilot killed after Syrian rebels shoot down plane
Hardline rebel groups including the jihadist, al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are active in the north-western province. A Russian Su-25 was reportedly shot down in Syria on Saturday, and the pilot may have been killed by Syrian rebels.

More Poles have been honoured by Israel for saving the lives of Jews during the war than any other nation.

But anti-Semitism grew virulent in the decades before the war, driving many Polish Jews to emigrate.

"[We] do not deny that there were cases of huge wickedness" in which Poles denounced Jews", Duda said in his Tuesday speech. This decision by the Polish government has a role to play in Holocaust education, even if they intended it to achieve something else.

Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, reiterated its concerns Tuesday.

Polish officials have emphasized that artistic and historical research work will not be affected by the ban.

"We must protect the good name of Poles and of Poland", Poland's president said. Duda said in a televised address that the law would protect the country's global reputation.


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