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Polish Senate Passes Controversial Holocaust Bill That Prompted Israeli Backlash

© Sputnik / Valeriy Melnikov / Go to the photo bank70th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation by Red Army
70th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation by Red Army - Sputnik International
WARSAW (Sputnik) - The new Polish legislation, which still needs the approval of the president to become a law, forbids any mention of participation of the Polish nation in crimes committed by Nazis during the Holocaust, particularly the use of phrases like "Polish death camps," where millions of people were slaughtered.

Earlier, Polish Jews have urged Poland’s upper parliamentary chamber in an open letter to reject the bill that criminalizes attempts to impose blame on Polish individuals for aiding Nazi Germany during World War II, including mass killing of Jews. The bill has already been condemned by the Israeli leadership, which accused authors of the legislation of attempting to change the historical truth.

“We appeal to the parliamentarians with a request to reject changes to the law on the Institute of National Remembrance … Adoption of amendments in the proposed form can lead to punishment for the truth about the Polish szmalcowniks and those Polish citizens who killed their Jewish neighbors,” the open letter, obtained by Sputnik and signed by over 100 Polish Jews, read.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks during his media announcement about Supreme Court legislation at Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, July 24, 2017. - Sputnik International
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Szmalcowniks were individuals who extorted money from Jews and from Poles who sheltered them during the German occupation.

The letter's author said that the term "Polish death camps" is in fact incorrect, but the use of this term does not automatically accuse the Poles of a crime and instead is just a geographic reference.

“Inaccurate geographical terms should not be a reason for imposing monetary fines, let alone imprisonment as stipulated in the bill,” the letter says. The adoption of the bill will also open the possibility for rewriting history and will limit the freedom of expression, according to the document.

However, The Polish upper house passed a controversial bill on Thursday 57-23 without amendments.

The bill prescribes up to three years in prison for attempts to link the Polish people with Nazi crimes. The bill also bans denial of the murder of about 100,000 Poles by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during World War II.

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The US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said before the bill was passed that it could have repercussions for freedom of speech and Poland’s ties with Washington and Tel Aviv. Israel’s Holocaust Center Yad Vashem released a statement, saying the motion aimed to hide historical truth.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed with his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki on launching talks concerning the new Polish bill, Netanyahu’s office said on Monday. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance called Israel’s interference in the situation around the bill, before it had even become a law, inappropriate. The Polish think-tank claims the new legislation does not limit scientific research and the freedom of speech, but tackles deliberate distortion of history.

The controversial Holocaust bill will now go to the Polish resident’s desk for signature.

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