Tuesday

21st Sep 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

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.

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.

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. First refugee deaths confirmed on Belarus-EU border
  2. EU kept in dark on ex-commissioner's new lobby job
  3. Fraud against EU dropped 20% last year
  4. French outrage over US security deal exposes EU frustrations
  5. Auditors slam EU Commission on green investments
  6. Youth migration 'costing West Balkans up to €5.5bn a year'
  7. Central & Eastern Europe: What Merkel did for us
  8. Netherlands against more rights for rejected asylum-seekers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us