Poland's opposition proposes amendment to Holocaust law

Poland's main opposition party tables amendment to government's controversial Holocaust bill.

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Poland's Sejm (Lower house of Parliament)
Poland's Sejm (Lower house of Parliament)

Poland's main opposition party on Tuesday tabled an amendment to the government's controversial Holocaust bill, which has stoked tensions with Israel, Ukraine and the United States, AFP reported.

However, the Civic Platform (PO) party's proposal has no chance of being adopted since the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party controls both houses of parliament.

"The political crisis triggered by clumsy and disastrous diplomacy, by thoughtless remarks, has brought us to a point where we politicians are forced to react," Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna told reporters.

"We are proposing a draft amendment that should correct the mistakes."

The law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich -- or other crimes against humanity and war crimes."

Israel has expressed concern that the Polish legislation relating to the extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II could serve to deny the involvement of individual Poles in the Holocaust.

The United States has similarly expressed concern over the law. The State Department urged Poland to reconsider the law before it was approved by the Senate. Later, following the vote in the Senate, the American embassy in Poland said it was “concerned about the repercussions” for bilateral relations of legislation in Warsaw about the Holocaust.

Poland's opposition suggested replacing the bill's controversial passage with penalties against "anyone who publicly and contrary to the facts attributes to the Polish state responsibility or co-responsibility for the German Third Reich's creation of concentration and death camps, as well as for the genocide that took place there, or who minimizes to a flagrant degree the responsibility of the real authors of these crimes by using the terms 'Polish death camps' and 'Polish concentration camps.'"

The PO also suggests deleting a passage concerning crimes committed against Poles by Ukrainians, which according to Kiev presents Ukrainians as nothing but "nationalist criminals" and "Third Reich collaborators".

The senate speaker and PiS member Stanislaw Karczewski had called on the opposition to refrain from tabling the amendment which he said would only "stoke the fire".

Tensions between Israel and Poland increased this past weekend, when Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tried to defend the Holocaust law but ended up coming under fire after he said there were "Jewish perpetrators" as well as Polish ones.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned Morawiecki on Sunday to say his comments were "unacceptable" and tantamount to denying the Holocaust.

Morawiecki's office said the phone call "helped reduce the tension" between the two sides, while the Polish premier’s spokeswoman insisted the remarks "were by no means intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide.”