Polish lawmakers voted in favor of amending a Holocaust law that had angered Israel and the United States, removing parts that imposed jail terms on people who suggest the Polish nation was complicit in Nazi crimes. Poland’s lower house of parliament backed the changes in an emergency session hours after the country’s Prime Minister requested the amendment, just four-month after the law was adopted. Speaking in parliament, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asserted that the law aimed to serve as “a kind of shock” to the international community that will raise awareness of Poland’s role in World War Two, in which its people were victims under occupation of Nazi aggression, not fellow perpetrators. “The purpose of this law was and still is one fundamental message: fight for the truth, fight for the truth of World War Two and post-war times.” / “That is why this law, a kind of shock, was necessary. The whole world began to talk about it thanks to this, and we have at least achieved that no one in the world will ever say ‘Polish death camps’ with impunity,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.
The law as it went into effect in March imposed jail sentences of up to three years for anyone who used the phrase “Polish death camps” or suggested “publicly and against the facts” that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany’s crimes. The unexpected U-turn came as the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party reportedly seeks to bolster security ties with Washington and faces heightened scrutiny from the European Union.
Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Polish decision to amend the law, stressing that while it was “obvious that the Holocaust was an unprecedented crime, committed by Nazi Germany against the Jewish nation,” “Poland has always expressed the highest understanding of the significance of the Holocaust as the most tragic part of the Jewish national experience.” “Following my conversation with (Polish) Prime Minister (Mateusz) Morawiecki, Israel welcomes the decision taken by the Polish government to establish the official Polish group dedicated to the dialogue with its Israeli partners on historical issues relating to the Holocaust. It’s obvious that the Holocaust was an unprecedented crime, committed by Nazi Germany against the Jewish nation, including all Poles of Jewish origin. Poland has always expressed the highest understanding of the significance of the Holocaust as the most tragic part of the Jewish national experience,” Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister said.
About three million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust. Jews from across the continent were sent to be murdered at death camps built and operated by Germans in occupied Poland – home to Europe’s biggest Jewish community at the time – including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.