Poland's President To Sign Holocaust Bill Into Law

Poland's foreign minister said Monday that a diplomatic row with Israel over a Holocaust bill adopted by the Polish parliament was rooted in misunderstanding but did not rule out amending it, even after it is signed into law.

But Duda said he would send the law, which has sparked an outcry in Israel, to Poland's highest court so it can assess whether it is in keeping with the Polish constitution.

The Polish law would impose prison sentences of up to three years for using the phrase "Polish death camps" and for suggesting "publicly and against the facts" that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany's crimes.

Israel sees it as an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.

"We are also concerned about the repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland's strategic interests and relationships - including with the United States and Israel", U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on January 31. "Israel and Poland hold a joint responsibility to research and preserve the history of the Holocaust", the Israeli government said in a statement on Twitter.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party vowed to push through a law regulating public statements about the country's Holocaust experience soon after it came to power in 2015.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, says Poland has made an "issue" out of its people's actions during the Holocaust and is denying the truth. The idea seemed to have been dropped, but made a sudden reappearance when the lower house of parliament approved a bill on January 26, the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Jan Grabowski, a historian at the University of Ottawa in Canada who studies Polish violence against Jews during the war, called Duda's signing of the law "further proof that the nationalists now in power in Poland will do anything to cater to the hard, right-wing core of their electorate".

"I know the Jewish people and acknowledge that there were Polish criminals who murdered Jews during the Holocaust", he said.

Unfortunately, at a moment when most would wish cooler heads would prevail, a trip by the Israeli Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, has been cancelled after he strongly condemned the proposed law.

"This organized mass murder was carried out by our country and no one else", Gabriel said, referring to the murder of 6 million Jews across Europe by Nazi Germany - including more than 3 million in then-occupied Poland. We are victims of the Holocaust too, and saying that death camps or concentration camps were "Polish" is a crime.

Defending the law, Duda said it would not prohibit Holocaust survivors and witnesses from talking about crimes committed by individual Poles. He also said he was "honored". Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust.