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07 February 2018, 01:21 | Katrina Lee
Far-Right Groups Demand Polish President Sign Holocaust Bill
Polish President Andrzej Duda said Tuesday he will sign a controversial bill that outlaws blaming Poland for atrocities committed by Nazis during the Holocaust.
Duda also said he would send the legislation, which now comes into force, to the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether it conforms with guarantees for freedom of speech.
As written, the legislation approved by Polish MPs carries fines and prison sentences of up to three years for public statements that falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to Poland.
But Israel has denounced the law as a whitewashing of history that prevents discussion about the role that some Poles played in facilitating Nazi crimes.
The State Department, in an unusual statement last week, said the law could have "repercussions" for U.S.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, says Poland has made an "issue" out of its people's actions during the Holocaust and is denying the truth.
Bennett was scheduled to meet with Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin, who is also the country's minister of science and higher education, as well as members of Poland's parliament, in addition to a group of Holocaust survivors and Poles who have been declared as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
However, historians say others were complicit by acts such as informing on Jews in hiding for rewards, and participating in Nazi-instigated massacres including in Jedwabne where hundreds of Jews were murdered by their neighbours.
In a televised address, Duda said the legislation would preserve Poland's global reputation and said that artistic and historical research work will not be affected by the law.
Israel said it still hoped Poland would make amendments.
While "Polish" is nearly always used as a geographic description in that context, Poles feel the phrase cruelly portrays their country as having been in charge of the Nazi-run camps, while in fact Poles made up the largest group of victims after Jews.
His statement follows Israeli and USA protests to Warsaw that its proposed law would infringe on free speech about the Holocaust.
More Poles have been honoured by Israel for saving the lives of Jews during the war than any other nation. The law has sparked aggressive disputes within Poland as well as overseas.
The Nazis and their collaborators systematically murdered six million Jews, wiping out a third of world Jewry. It is the opinion of this author that the use of the term "Polish death camps" is misleading and simply untrue.
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. At least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish citizens were killed by the Nazis as well.
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