Poland to amend controversial Holocaust law

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks during a debate about the Holocaust Bill at the lower house of Parliament. (Agencja Gazeta/Slawomir Kaminski via Reuters)

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks during a debate about the Holocaust Bill at the lower house of Parliament. (Agencja Gazeta/Slawomir Kaminski via Reuters)

Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Wednesday proposed an amendment to a controversial Holocaust law that has stoked tension with Israel by imposing jail terms on anyone ascribing co-responsibility of the Polish state for Nazi German war crimes, a senior aide said.

The amendment is designed to remove fines or criminal penalties of up to three years in prison for anyone found guilty of ascribing Nazi crimes to the Polish state.

“We are departing from criminal penalisation that may divert attention from the goal” of the legislation, Michal Dworczyk, a chief aide to rightwing the prime minister, told public broadcaster Polish Radio.

“It must be remembered that this goal was and is to defend the good name of Poland and historical truth,” Dworczyk added.

The law, passed by Poland’s Senate in February, currently sets fines or up to three years in jail for anyone ascribing “responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich”.

READ MORE: Poland’s president signs controversial Holocaust bill into law

The main aim of the legislation was to prevent people from erroneously describing Nazi German death camps in Poland, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, as Polish.

But the jail terms included in the law ignited an unprecedented diplomatic row with Israel and calls in the Jewish state for the recall of Israel’s ambassador in Warsaw.

Israel expressed deep concerns that the legislation could open the door to prosecuting Holocaust survivors for their testimony should it concern the involvement of individual Poles for allegedly killing or giving up Jews to the Germans.

Israel also sees it as a bid to deny the participation of individual Poles in killing Jews or handing them over to the Nazis.

Poland’s right-wing government has faced international criticism over the law, which it insists was meant to protect Poland from false accusations of complicity in the Holocaust.

Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens, including three million Jews.

© Agence France-Presse

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