Andrzej Duda
Andrzej DudaReuters

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday apologized to Jews chased out of the country 50 years ago during the communist regime's anti-Semitic campaign.

"The free and independent Poland of today, my generation, is not responsible and does not need to apologize," Duda said.

He added, "But... to those who were driven out then... I'd like to say please forgive the Republic, Poles, the Poland of that time for having carried out such a shameful act."

His apology comes amid heightened tension between Poland and Israel over Warsaw's new controversial Holocaust bill, which allows a sentence of up to three years in prison for anyone ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich."

The law went into effect last week, and found its first victim - an Argentinian newspaper - a few days later.