Entrance to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. (Shutterstock)
Auschwitz

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Poland is promoting a bill that dissociates the country from the Holocaust. We must demand that Poland face its dark past and recognize its complacency in the Holocaust.

The Polish Parliament and Senate this week approved a law that prohibits any references to Polish involvement in the Holocaust, severely hindering free speech and essentially whitewashing the history of the Holocaust.

The bill prohibits describing Nazi death camps in Poland as Polish, and sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term as punishment. The bill’s objective is to hide any Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

The move angered Israelis across the political spectrum and elicited much criticism from groups around the world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the law as “baseless.” ”One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” Netanyahu stated.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin slammed the law as an attempt at “fake history.” “Every crime, every offense, must be condemned. They must be examined and revealed,” Rivlin demanded.

Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based World Holocaust Remembrance Center, also expressed opposition to the new legislation, saying it is “liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust.”

Yad Vashem said that “there is no doubt that the term ‘Polish death camps’ is a historical misrepresentation! The extermination camps were set up in Nazi-occupied Poland in order to murder the Jewish people within the framework of the ‘Final Solution.’”

However, “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,” Israel’s official Holocaust memorial stated.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert stated the US understands that phrases like “Polish death camps” are “inaccurate, misleading, and hurtful” but voiced concern the legislation could “undermine free speech and academic discourse.”

The bill has even generated distress among Holocaust survivors. Halina Birenbaum, a Holocaust survivor, writer and poet, who has traveled many times to Poland on education trips as a witness, said that she will reconsider her visits out of fear that she may be arrested.

She shared that she was invited to Warsaw as a guest of honor of events marking the Holocaust, but now she is unsure she will go. “I am scared to tell the story on Polish soil,” she said.

Princeton University Professor Jan Tomasz Gross, an expert on Polish complicity in the Holocaust, previously stated that Poland’s new stance dissociating itself from the Holocaust is “a step back to the dark ages of anti-Semitism.”

Gross has asserted that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the war. Though the exact numbers are difficult to measure, Gross said evidence indicates that Poles killed up to 30,000 Germans during the war, at most, while they probably killed 70,000 to 90,000 Jews, but possibly more.

We must raise our voices in protest and encourage Poland to reevaluate the legislation in light of its potentially negative impact on free speech, and demand that the country face its dark past and recognize its share in the Jewish catastrophe during World War II.  

Israelis Under Attack - Donate

Let Poland Know What You Think of Their Attempt to Silence History!

1. Click here to send the Polish embassy in Israel a message on Facebook.

2. Click here to send the Polish embassy in Israel a message via Twitter.

3. Write the Polish embassy in Israel an email at:  telaviv.amb.sekretariat@msz.gov.pl

4. Click here to send the Polish Foreign Ministry a message.

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