WASHINGTON, DC, January 28, 2018 - NCSEJ calls on the Polish government to rescind legislation that criminalizes mention of Poles' participation in the Holocaust.
The legislation passed the lower house of Polish Parliament on Friday, one day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp located in Oswiecim, Poland. The bill, which criminalizes claims of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes with a prison sentence of up to three years, has yet to pass the Polish Senate or receive approval from President Andrzej Duda.
The legislation, in part, is meant to address use of phrases such as "Polish death camps" when referring to Nazi death camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor, which were located in Nazi-occupied Poland and where millions of Jews were exterminated. NCSEJ agrees that individuals, organizations, and governments should refrain from use of the phrase "Polish death camps." NCSEJ also affirms that many courageous Poles risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust and believes they and their stories should be rightfully honored.
However, criminalizing language that highlights the very real and tragic stories of those Poles who killed their Jewish neighbors is an outright denial of historical fact, an insult to Holocaust victims and survivors, and an erosion of democratic norms. With this legislation, Poland threatens the great progress it has made in rebuilding itself as a democracy and supporting the renaissance of Jewish communal life.
It is imperative that Poland, like any democracy, faces an honest assessment of its past. Attempts to legislate against that ensures the country's wounds from the Holocaust will never heal. NCSEJ is hopeful that plans to initiate dialogue between the Polish and Israeli governments will lead to a positive resolution of this issue.
For more information, please contact NCSEJ CEO Mark B. Levin at MLevin@ncsej.org or at (202) 898-2500.