Duda defends Holocaust bill
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda says there was no institutional participation by Poland in the Holocaust, but did recognise criminal actions toward Jews by some individual Poles.
“There were wicked people who sold their neighbours for money. But it was not the Polish nation, it was an an organised action,” Duda said.
Some Poles sacrificed their lives to save Jews and the Polish underground and exiled government resisted efforts to wipe out the community, he said.
“We absolutely can’t back down. We have the right to defend the historical truth,” Duda told broadcaster TVP.
An editorial in the New York Times argued: “It is baffling why Poland’s nationalist-controlled parliament would mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day — the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp on Polish soil — with a needless, foolish and insulting draft bill that would penalise any suggestion of complicity by the Polish state or the Polish nation in the Nazi death machine.
“Apart from raising the very questions about the role of the Poles in the Holocaust that the drafters apparently want to hide, are we not past such self-serving posturing over one of history’s greatest crimes? Whatever dubious motives are behind this measure, Poland would do well to erase it as quickly as possible.”
Duda was reacting to Israeli outrage over a proposed Polish imposing fines and jail time on anyone who referred to the genocide as being a Polish crime or called the Nazi death camps “Polish”.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not tolerate “distortion of the truth, rewriting history and denial of the Holocaust”.
He spoke to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki by telephone and they agreed to hold talks.
Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, met Poland’s cabinet chief to discuss the legislation, although Warsaw has signalled it will not change the bill.
Israel’s foreign ministry said Azari told the Poles that the legislation would violate the freedom of speech and limit the discourse surrounding the Holocaust in Poland and its victims.
Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial also warned against trying to change history.
“Restrictions on statements by scholars and others regarding the Polish people’s direct or indirect complicity with the crimes committed on their land during the Holocaust are a serious distortion,” the museum said.
It has been claimed that Holocaust survivors who talked about their suffering could be jailed under the proposed law.
Poland had one of the world’s largest Jewish populations before 1939. About 3 million Jews were killed in death camps in Poland, including Auschwitz (pictured) and Treblinka.
Auschwitz. Picture credit: Wikimedia