In an update to a piece written by Jazz earlier this month, on Saturday, news broke that Poland has agreed to not enforce a new Holocaust speech law just yet. A delegation is going to Israel to discuss “compromises”.
Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who also serves as the country’s chief prosecutor, announced Saturday that the government would not open criminal proceedings against those found breaking the new Holocaust law until Poland’s constitutional court reaches a decision on the legislation.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry interpreted his statement as “substantial progress” toward reaching a solution to the crisis that broke out after the law passed.
The ministry said that Israel’s ambassador to Poland met with Ziobro a few days ago. According to the ministry, the meeting paved the way for a visit by a Polish delegation to discuss the crisis regarding the law, which critics say is an attempt to whitewash Poles’ role in the Holocaust.
In a controversial move, the Polish Parliament in Warsaw passed a law criminalizing references to Poland’s extermination of Jews in World War II. As though Poland was the real victim in the deaths of Jews, the Holocaust speech law was passed to end any reference to Poland’s participation in the atrocities. President Andrzej Duda is said to be an ally of the PiS nationalist hardliners, for whom the legislation is meant as a sop for its base supporters
Approximately 6 million Polish citizens were killed during World War II, about half of them Jews. The Nazis set up some of the Holocaust’s most notorious concentration camps on Polish soil, including Auschwitz, where nearly 1 million Jews and 75,000 non-Jewish Poles died.
The use of the phrase “Polish death camps” has long provoked outrage among Poles. Hard-line supporters of the ruling Law and Justice party, known by its Polish acronym PiS, have for years sought a law that would criminalize its use.
But the draft law passed by Parliament does not mention the phrase and instead is written more broadly to encompass anyone who speaks about Polish involvement in Nazi crimes in a way that runs “counter to the facts.”
Duda signed the law into effect, which imposes jail terms of three years for speech that states Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. He claimed it safeguards Poland’s international reputation. Naturally, news of this brought swift condemnation from Israel and the U.S. State Department. (Bloomberg)
One of Poland’s most senior lawmakers said it’s time to back away from a new law criminalizing suggestions that the nation was in any way responsible for the Holocaust following an international outcry.
Stanislaw Karczewski, the speaker of Poland’s upper house of parliament from the governing Law & Justice party, said the country’s diplomatic efforts to explain the law may have stalled and that the rules should not be applied before being vetted by the Constitutional Court. The party rushed through the legislation earlier this month, ignoring warnings from the U.S. State Department, Israel and Poland’s European allies.
“I’m not sure if we haven’t reached the wall, a dead end, maybe we should say stop and not say anything else,” Karczewski told private broadcaster TVN24 on Tuesday. “I’m convinced this law won’t be applied, one would have to be irresponsible to do something that could provoke even more emotions.”
It marks a change of tone from Monday, when Poland’s foreign minister refused to apologize for Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who fanned the conflict by listing Jews among those who were “perpetrators” of Nazi-era crimes along with Germans, Ukrainians, Russians and Poles.
It is hard to believe that some are hell-bent to assign blame for the Holocaust to the Jews themselves, but there you are. Poland went there. The fact is, some Poles helped the Nazis to murder Jews or turn them over to Germans, and some Poles saved Jews.
Far from strengthening a narrative that Poles were both heroes and victims of World War II, the legislation triggered increasing scrutiny over Poland’s role in the Shoah.
“As the last witnesses slowly leave us, we see a deliberate and pernicious attempt to rewrite history and marginalize Jewish suffering,” Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel’s foreign minister, said on Twitter on Tuesday.
Only 380,000 of Poland’s 3 million Jews, Europe’s largest prewar Jewish community, survived the Holocaust, according to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. While some Polish civilians participated in the murder of Jews or turned them over to Nazis to avoid being executed for hiding them, others resisted. Yad Vashem has commemorated about 6,700 Poles for rescuing Jews, the largest number of “Righteous Gentiles” in any country.
History is brutal at times. Call them death camps or not. Jews were rounded up and killed in Poland. The non-Jews who saved Jews in Poland deserve the recognition and that isn’t possible if the country outlaws the simple fact that some Poles killed Jews. How do we learn lessons from history if events are not honestly studied?