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Israeli politicians slam Poland's controversial Holocaust bill

New law means using phrase 'Polish death camps' could be an imprisonable offence

    Poland's law came in the week Alicja Mularska was given an award for her Polish parents' role in hiding Jews during the Second World War
    Poland's law came in the week Alicja Mularska was given an award for her Polish parents' role in hiding Jews during the Second World War (Photo: Flash90)

    Israeli politicians and diplomats have responded angrily after the Polish senate approved the country’s controversial new Holocaust bill. 

    “No law will change the facts,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the bill was approved on Thursday.

    “Israel opposes categorically the Polish senate decision. Israel views with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth.”

    The bill, which has yet to be signed into law by the Polish President Andrzej Duda, could mean prison terms for anyone who describes Nazi camps as “Polish death camps” or suggests the Polish nation was complicit in the Shoah.

    Senators voted 57 to 23 to approve the bill, with two absentions.

    It was voted in parliament on the week a Polish woman accepted a Righteous Among the Nations award on behalf of her parents, Jan Dziadosz and Sabina Perzyna, during a posthumous ceremony in Jerusalem.

    The couple helped hide Jews in Poland’s Lublin district during the Second World War.

    Over 6,000 non-Jewish Poles have given the Righteous Among the Nations accolade, more than any other nationality.

    The ministry’s statement reflected a widespread feeling in Israel that the Warsaw parliament has no right to prescribe prison sentences for people who suggest that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust.

    There was similar anger among Israeli opposition parties, with Labour leader Isaac Herzog saying it “includes a deep element of Holocaust denial" and party colleague Nachman Shai adding: “the Poles are determined to obscure their role in the Holocaust of European Jewry" and 

    The Yad Vashem institution said that while it considers the term “Polish death camps” to be historically inaccurate, the law would still restrain free Holocaust scholarship.

    “[The bill] jeopardises the free and open discussion of the part of the Polish people in the persecution of the Jews at the time,” the organisation said. 

    “It is liable to blur historical truths due to limitations it places on expressions regarding the complicity of segments of the Polish population in crimes against Jews committed by its own people, either directly or indirectly, on Polish soil during the Holocaust.” 

    Israeli politicians have formed a cross-party alliance to respond to the Polish legislation with their own bill in Israel, with half of Knesset members backing a new bill to criminalise denying or downplaying the role of Nazi collaborators. 

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