Jewish groups blast Polish Senate's passing of Holocaust bill

Jewish groups blast Polish Senate's passing of Holocaust bill

Jewish groups blast Polish Senate's passing of Holocaust bill

The bill criminalizes any accusations against Poland of complicity in war crimes during World War II, including the Holocaust, as well as any denials of the killings of Poles by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the same period, and banishes the Ukrainian nationalist ideology.

Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari has said that her country rejected the bill, adding that: "In Israel, this bill is seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors' testimony".

Israel's foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Jerusalem "adamantly opposed" the bill, adding: "Israel views with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth".

The controversial bill now only needs the signature of the Polish president to become law, at which point anyone referring to "Polish death camps" or Polish collaboration with the Nazis during the Holocaust will risk three years in jail.

The bill has also angered Kiev, which takes issue with a section that imposes a criminal sentence on anyone who denies crimes were committed by Ukrainian nationalists against Poles between 1925 and 1950.

Israel set up a team to conduct a dialogue with the Polish government in hope of amending or delaying the bill, but the Polish upper house approved it early on Thursday.

But many Poles bristle when linked to the atrocities carried out by the Nazis, pointing to the suffering of non-Jewish Poles at the hands of the occupying Nazis and the Soviets.

In the run-up to the passage of the bill, Netanyahu had warned that Israel has "no tolerance for the distortion of the truth, and rewriting history or denying the Holocaust". "We will never be accused of complicity in the Holocaust".

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The U.S. administration has asked Poland to rethink the proposed legislation saying it could "undermine free speech and academic discourse" and strain ties with the U.S. and Israel.

Even Poles who do not support the law consider the phrase "Polish death camps" deeply offensive and historically wrong.

The Polish Parliament's lower chamber adopted the measure last Friday, on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Senate passed it Wednesday, despite a concerted effort by the Israeli and Polish governments to ameliorate the tense situation. It exempts artistic and research work.

In a statement following the approval of the bill, the US State Department called on Poland "to re-evaluate the legislation", warning of "divisions" that could affect Warsaw's "strategic interests and relationships".

Up to 3 million Polish Jews were killed in the Holocaust, as well as an estimated 2.7 million non-Jewish Poles.

Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, has documented 6,706 Polish "Righteous Among the Nations" - gentiles who gave shelter to Jews without profit motive.

The Washington, DC-based museum said some Polish agencies, including the police force and railroad personnel, played a role in the deportation and sending of Jews to the death camps.

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