Monday

27th May 2019

Poland backs Holocaust bill that angered US, Israel

  • Some three million Polish Jews were killed during the second world war (Photo: Jared Yeh)

Polish senators have backed a new law that will jail people who link Poles to Nazi-era crimes.

The senators on early Thursday (1 February) approved the controversial bill, which still needs to be signed into law by president Andrzej Duda.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Anyone who claims a Nazi concentration camp in Poland is 'Polish' could face a three-year prison term, if the bill is signed into law.

Although exceptions for "artistic and scientific" activities are included, using the term "Polish death camps" is reportedly enough to land Polish and foreign nationals in jail.

Poland's conservative government, including president Duda, say the law is needed to protect Polish history given such terms imply state complicity in atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.

"We have to send a clear signal to the world that we won't allow for Poland to continue being insulted," Patryk Jaki, a deputy justice minister, was quoted as saying in Reuters.

Polish media report 57 senators backed the bill, 23 voted against, while two abstained. The lower house of the parliament had already endorsed it last week.

But the Senate move is likely to generate further international backlash amid US and Israeli demands to scrap the proposal altogether.

The United States said the legislation is an assault on free speech and Israel has accused Poland of trying to rewrite history.

"We all must be careful not to inhibit discussion and commentary on the Holocaust," said US state department spokesperson Heather Nauert, in a statement.

She warned Poland risks repercussions to both its strategic interests and relations should the bill become law.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made similar statements over the weekend, saying that "one cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied."

Some three million Polish Jews, along with scores of other Polish citizens, were slaughtered during the war. Research also shows some Poles had collaborated with their Nazi masters.

The latest affair comes after a separate dispute between the European Commission and Poland's ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party over executive powers over the independent judiciary.

New Polish PM aims for 'progress' on rule of law

The new Polish prime minister has hit a more conciliatory tone in Brussels when meeting EU commission chief Juncker, but sticks to the judicial reform despite the threat of possible sanctions.

Poland shows no sign of concessions to Commission

While the dialogue between Warsaw and the Commission has improved since new prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki entered office, there is no sign of compromise over rule of law concerns - as the clock ticks towards a March deadline.

Opinion

Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

News in Brief

  1. Russia-critical banker elected president of Lithuania
  2. Timmermans calls for 'progressive alliance'
  3. Catalonia's Puigdemont wins MEP seat
  4. Weber opens door to alliance with greens and liberals
  5. Tsipras calls snap Greek election after EP defeat
  6. Polish ruling PiS takes lion's share of EU vote
  7. Romanian voters punish ruling PSD party
  8. First official EP projection: EPP remain top, Greens fourth

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us