Poland’s president signed a bill that outlaws blaming Poland as a nation for crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, ignoring protest from countries such as Ukraine, Israel, and the US.
The press office of President Andrzej Duda confirmed he enacted the law on Tuesday, about six hours after he announced he planned to do so.
However, Duda said earlier in the day he planned to ask the Poland constitutional court to evaluate the bill, leaving open the possibility it might be amended.
As written, the legislation approved by Polish lawmakers carries fines and prison sentences of up to three years for public statements that falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to Poland.
Both Israel and the United States criticized the law prior to the president signing it. Israeli officials and Holocaust scholars said it would allow Poland to whitewash the role of Poles who killed or denounced Jews during Nazi Germany’s World War II occupation of Poland.
Ukrainian lawmakers also criticized the Polish law criminalizing some statements about World War II, saying it will foment anti-Ukrainian sentiment.
The law includes a section making it a crime to deny atrocities committed by Ukrainian nationalists against Poles during WWII. From 1943-1944, Ukrainian nationalists killed up to 100,000 Poles in Volyn and eastern Galicia, areas then in Poland but now in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian parliament said in its statement that the Polish bill contains a “biased and controversial” reading of history, paving the way for “manipulations and strengthening of anti-Ukrainian trends.”
The bill comes at a time of growing tensions between neighboring Ukraine and Poland amid a rise of nationalism in both countries.
Poland is angry that some of the Ukrainians who killed Poles are now being hailed as Ukrainian national heroes.
A leading figure in the Jewish-American community also criticized Poland’s handling of its new Holocaust law.
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.
He says that while Poles who helped save Jews during the Holocaust should be recognized, Poland should also acknowledge that many Poles were complicit in aiding the Nazis.
“It is not credible to engage in the denial,” Hoenlein said Tuesday. He says it would be better if Poland said “there was evil done. We recognize it.”