On Jan. 26, Polish lawmakers passed a bill making it a crime to blame or accuse Poland, or any Polish person, for any Nazi acts that were carried out on Polish soil during World War II. This month, the Trump administration has called on Israel several times to take action to dissolve the current crisis that has emerged in response to this law according to Axios.
The bill was passed the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day and according to Time, “many in Israel call it an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles had in the detention and killing of the Polish Jews.” Some politicians in Israel also say that this is a form of Holocaust denial.
Approximately three million Polish Jews were put to death during World War II, according to statistics from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“The legislation will not help further the exposure of historical truth and may harm freedom of research, as well as prevent discussion of the historical message and legacy of World War II,” said Israel’s Foreign Ministry in a statement.
Poland has historically been insecure of the term “Polish death camp,” where according to the Polish politician Jan Grabiec, “the Polish foreign ministry issued 913 statements between 2008 and 2015 in response to the term being mentioned.”
In 2012, former U.S. President Barack Obama felt the backlash of using the term “Polish death camp” in a speech as he was denounced by the current European Council President Donald Tusk. Tusk previously served as the Prime Minister of Poland.
With the bill passed, anyone, Poles and foreigners, who blames the country or talks of Poland’s tangle with the Holocaust can face a prison sentence for up to three years or be charged a fine.
Because it is now illegal to condemn or point fingers to Poland, some are concerned this will pave the way for the country to rewrite other parts of history as well. Time writes that “lawmakers in Israel have pointed to historical records citing complicity by some Poles in the activities of the Nazi regime.”
“I strongly oppose it,” said the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an official statement after the bill was passed. “We will under no circumstances accept any attempt to rewrite history.”
While there are about 7,000 Poles known to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial organization in Israel who helped rescue tens of thousands of Jews, there are still others who helped the Germans in eradicating the Jewish race. Nevertheless, Yad Vashem is against the bill and said that it was “liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population.”
In defense against the hate and opposition against the bill that had been passed, the Polish prime minister tweeted a metaphor. “A gang of professional thugs enters a two-family house. They kill the first family almost entirely. They kill the parents of the second, torturing the kids. They loot and raze the house. Could one, in good conscience, say that the second family is guilty for the murder of the first?”
The Polish government says that the bill was not meant to limit free expression or to rewrite history.