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The Financial Express

Poland’s Duda signs Holocaust bill defying criticisms

| Updated: February 08, 2018 11:12:36


Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks during his media announcement about his decision on the Holocaust bill at Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, February 6, 2018. (REUTERS) Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks during his media announcement about his decision on the Holocaust bill at Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, February 6, 2018. (REUTERS)

Polish president has signed a controversial bill that imposes jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the Holocaust, prompting sharp criticism from Israel and the United States.

Andrzej Duda on Tuesday said in a televised address the legislation would safeguard Poland’s international reputation, but Israel called for amendments, saying the two countries had a ‘joint responsibility’ to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

The United States, a close NATO ally of Poland, expressed disappointment at Duda’s decision, says a Reuters report.

“(This bill) ... protects Polish interests ... our dignity, the historical truth... so that we are not slandered as a state and as a nation,” said Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) which introduced the legislation.

But it also “takes into account the sensitivity of those for whom the issue of historical truth, the memory of the Holocaust is incredibly important”, Duda added.

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.

PiS, a socially conservative, nationalist party that has clashed with the European Union and human rights groups on a range of issues since taking power in late 2015, says the new law is needed to ensure that Poles are recognised as victims, not perpetrators, of Nazi aggression in World War Two.

Israel says the law will curb free speech, criminalise basic historical facts and stop any discussion of the role some Poles played in Nazi crimes. Activists say the passage of the bill has encouraged a rise in anti-Semitism.

More than three million of the 3.2 million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in occupied Poland - home to Europe’s biggest Jewish community at the time - including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

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