07 Feb 2018

Legislating History: Polish Government Passes Revisionist “Holocaust Bill” – It is now a Crime to Refer to “Polish Death Camps”

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Polish President Andrzej Duda signed a law Tuesday banning people from accusing Poland of Holocaust atrocities committed by the Nazis and from referring to concentration camps as “Polish death camps” — heightening tensions with the United States and Israel, which have criticized the measure.

In the interests of bringing this issue to light as quickly as possible, I have taken the liberty of quoting existing material, rather than attempting to paraphrase and edit the comments made by those much more knowledgeable and well-spoken than I could be. I apologise for taking this short-cut, but I hope that it will encourage some people to carry out their own research about this very troubling development.

According to historian  Dr. Inna Rogatchi, quoted in Artuz Sheva today, ” The whole process of passing the notorious Polish law that aims to censor the narrative on WWII, the Shoah and the activities around them, reveals the real face of modern-day Poland…The vast majority of the  Polish media, the government and a large number of the Polish public are stubbornly presenting an inaccurate picture of the new law. They are trying to insist that the whole thing is about one phrase denoting who built the concentration camps, and while doing so, are positioning themselves as the main victims of WWII. In fact, the reality is that the law is about censoring the narrative of the history of WWII, and the context of it is much wider. After all, everybody knows that the camps were a Nazi operation. No one thinks they were Polish. But the Polish legislators have used the argument over that phrase as a cover for a far more important part of this law. In the name of ‘the protection the reputation’ of the Polish nation and Polish state, anyone who invokes the role and crimes committed by Poles during WWII and /or their collaboration with the Nazis, will be prosecuted. This is in direct violation of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, of fundamental human rights, a violation of international law and the UN Convention of Human Rights and has no place in civilized society. It is blatant revisionism of the most terrible tragedy of the twentieth century, one in which the crimes against humanity were out of any proportion – and which do not have the statute of limitation for this very reason. The Nazis had their accomplices and collaborators all over occupied territories, and Poland was no exception. To claim otherwise, or to demand that the world remain silent because a few hundred legislators and 57 Senators would like that to happen, is nothing but delusional. Polish legislators hope to hush the racist crimes of Polish citizens before and after WWII once and for all.”

According to Prof. Rogatchi, “There are grave implications for the future of Polish society.  In the beginning there was hope that the clever, well educated, independent-minded Polish people would withstand the brainwashing of the ruling revisionists of history.”

According to the Washing Post: The bill’s international critics argue that it violates freedom of expression. Once in effect, it will essentially ban accusations that some Poles were complicit in Nazi crimes committed on Polish soil, including in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, where more than 1.1 million people died. Germany operated six camps in Poland where Jews and others whom the Nazis considered enemies were killed. Anyone convicted under the law will face fines or up to three years in jail. Polish officials have emphasized that artistic and historical research work will not be affected by the ban. “But there is too much room for interpretation,” said Agnieszka Markiewicz, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s central Europe office. “Who is going to determine what artistic or academic expression means? A scholar associated with a university might be excluded, but what about a schoolteacher who shares some of the horrible stories that happened in Poland?” In Israel, the reaction was also fierce. “One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement last week. On Tuesday, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, argued that Poland’s decision to pursue the law was a denial of facts. “It is not credible to engage in the denial,” Hoenlein said, according to the Associated Press.


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