The U.S. State Department on Wednesday urged Poland to re-evaluate a proposed law that would make it illegal to suggest Poland bore any responsibility for crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany on its soil during World War II, Reuters reports.
The call from State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert came as the Polish Senate began debating the law, which was approved by the Polish parliament last week.
Nauert said in a statement on Wednesday that the United States is concerned about the repercussions on Poland’s relations with the United States and Israel if the draft becomes law.
“We encourage Poland to re-evaluate the legislation in light of its potential impact on the principle of free speech and on our ability to be effective partners,” she said, according to Reuters.
The bill would make the use of phrases such as “Polish death camps” punishable by up to three years in prison.
The proposed legislation has been criticized in Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized the bill, saying on the weekend, "The law is baseless; I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied."
On Sunday, Netanyahu spoke with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the two agreed to immediately start a dialogue in order to try to reach understandings on the controversial legislation.
Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki, who authored the bill, has made clear it was not directed against Israel. “Important Israeli politicians and media are attacking us for the bill ... On top of that they claim that Poles are ‘co-responsible’ for the Holocaust,” he said, adding that “this is proof how necessary this bill is.”
If the Senate approves the bill, it will still have to be signed into law by President Andrzej Duda, who has said he supports it.
Duda insisted on Monday that there was no institutionalized participation by Poland or its people in the Holocaust, but did acknowledge that individual Poles took "wicked" actions against Jewish neighbors.