Poland backtracks on controversial Holocaust Law, considers removing jail terms

Warsaw appears to be caving in to pressure and backtracking on recent legislation that criminalized discussion of Polish collusion with Nazi Germany. 

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

Polish lawmakers are debating a new version of a Holocaust speech law that would remove criminal provisions for statements deemed harmful to Poland’s good name.

A version of the law passed earlier this year criminalized discussion of Polish collusion with Nazi Germany, calling for prison terms of up to three years for breaking the law.

It sparked a major diplomatic crisis with Israel, where many felt it was an attempt to whitewash Poland’s history of violence against Jews during World War II. The United States warned it threatened academic freedom and that it would harm Poland’s “strategic position.”

In February, a high-level Polish government delegation visiting Israel for emergency talks over the new legislation insisted that the new law itself was not a subject for negotiation.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appeared to be backing down on the legislation after presenting a new draft bill to Parliament.

Morawiecki asked the lower house of parliament to remove the jail terms from the bill, Reuters reported.

“We resign from the criminal provisions,” the head of prime minister’s office, Michal Dworczyk, told public radio, according to Reuters.

The government decided that there were other “tools” it could use to “protect Poland’s good name,” the report said.

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, said in a press release that it “believes that the current announcement of the Polish government’s intention to modify the controversial amendment to the National Remembrance law passed earlier this year, is a positive development in the right direction.

“We believe that the correct way to combat historical misrepresentations is by reinforcing open, free research and educational activities,” the statement continued.

“Yad Vashem reiterates its support for ensuring that educators and researchers are not hindered in grappling with the complex truth of Polish-Jewish relations before, during and after the Holocaust.”