Polish president signs controversial Holocaust bill into law

Feb 07, 2018, 01:15
Polish president signs controversial Holocaust bill into law

Poland's President Andrzej Duda gives a press conference on February 6, 2018 in Warsaw to announces that he will sign into law a controversial Holocaust bill which has sparked tensions with Israel, the USA, and Ukraine.

"I am signing this bill and, accordingly, Article 55a will come into force", said Duda in television statement Tuesday.

The United States, a close North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally of Poland, expressed disappointment at Duda's decision.

"We are also concerned about the repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland's strategic interests and relationships - including with the United States and Israel", U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on January 31.

The law orders jail time or fines on anyone calling the Nazi murder of Jews during World War II a "Polish crime", or Nazi death camps "Polish death camps".

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If Duda signs the bill, it will most likely worsen the crisis between Israel and Poland, because the two countries have agreed to establish joint teams to discuss the matter - because of the controversy it has caused. The Israeli embassy in Warsaw said it has received "a wave of anti-Semitic statements" in the past week amid the debate over the bill.

Thousands of Poles have been recognized by the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel for helping rescue Jews during the war, despite a death penalty for anyone found helping a Jew while the country was under Nazi occupation. In addition to 3 million Polish Jews, the Nazis killed 1.9 million Polish non-Jews, whom they classified as racially inferior to Aryans. The legislation provides exemptions for academic research and art.

Duda said simultaneously that he would refer the law to Poland's highest court so it can assess whether the new rules are in line with the constitution.

"We have the right to be judged according to facts and accordingly, as the President of the Polish Republic, I have taken the following decision".

Analysts say that the legislation has isolated Poland from Israel, a key ally of the United States and neighbouring Ukraine.

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Poland's ruling conservatives have said such phrases distort history.

On Monday, Israel's education minister said Poland had cancelled a scheduled visit because he refused to back down from condemning the bill.

Bennett reiterated the same message in his statement on Monday.

While Daniels conceded that there were "undoubtedly many, many bad Poles who were involved in horrific crimes" against Jews, the bill's wording criminalizes those who accuse the Polish government or the Polish nation as a whole of complicity with the Nazis.

"The issue is the legitimate and essential freedom to talk about the involvement of Poles in the murder of Jews without fear or threat of penalization", he said.

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Israel has repeatedly expressed outrage, claiming that it will stifle Holocaust discussion and allow for the whitewashing of crimes such as the denunciation and killing of Jews by Poles.