By Alexandra Wells, International News Writer
Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, signed a controversial law about the Holocaust on Tuesday, February 6. The law would make it illegal to call concentration camps “Polish death camps” and to accuse Poland of any Holocaust related atrocities. Any violations of this law will be punishable by a fine or by up to three years in jail.
This law has brought concerns over free speech and for a whitewashing of the history of the Holocaust. Both the United States and Israel have expressed concerns over the new law, with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as quoted on BBC, describing it as “an attempt to rewrite history and deny the Holocaust.” The United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also expressed a negative view on the bill, saying in a press statement on February 6, “Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry… We believe that open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering misleading speech.”
Along with an announcement of the law, President Duda said that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal would review the bill to check if it is in line with Poland’s constitution and fundamental rights. Some believe, however, that this tribunal review is not an effective check as the judges are not independent of party influences. Piotr Buras, the head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, is quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “The constitutional tribunal in its current composition serves the goals of the ruling party… It is definitely not independent.” Despite the fears for a lack of freedom of speech, some Polish politicians believe that this law will be to protect the truth of Poland’s history.
The Polish politicians on the side of the bill believe that this will help defend the truth of Poland’s actions in relation to Nazi Germany. Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Warchol is quoted by the BBC saying that it was wrong to suggest the bill would stop people researching Polish history and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was also quoted by the BBC as saying that his country was committed to combating lies about the Holocaust. The law means to punish for suggesting that the Polish state was part of and complicit in Nazi Germany’s actions during World War II and to help show that the Polish people were victims of Nazi control instead of being part of Nazi crimes. As quoted by Reuters, President Duda believes that the bill “… protects Polish interests… our dignity, the historical truth… so that we are not slandered as a state and as a nation”.
Contrary to the belief that the Polish people were only victims of Nazi Germany, research has shown that thousands killed Jews or gave them up when the Nazi’s occupied Poland. Polish governments have attempted to challenge the history of the Holocaust and this new bill brings only more concerns over the whitewashing of history and the violation of freedom of speech.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 13th print edition.
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