As Israel, US Pitch Fits, Poland's Senate Passes Holocaust Bill

Law would ban phrases like 'Polish death camps'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 1, 2018 2:49 AM CST
Updated Feb 1, 2018 5:03 AM CST
US Urges Poland to Drop Holocaust Bill
Polish leaders place candles at the Monument to the Victims at Auschwitz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Despite US pleas to rethink proposed legislation regulating Holocaust speech, Poland's Senate went ahead and passed the bill, reports the BBC. The legislation has sparked a diplomatic dispute with Israel, and the US had argued that it could hurt freedom of speech as well as strategic relationships. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert voiced her government's concerns as the Polish Senate was preparing to approve the bill Wednesday; the bill later passed by 57 votes to 23. The measure next needs to be signed into law by the president, who supports it. Poland's conservative ruling Law and Justice party authored the bill, which calls for up to three years in prison for any intentional attempt to falsely attribute the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or people, the AP reports.

Law and Justice says it is fighting against the use of phrases like "Polish death camps" to refer to death camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. Israel, however, sees the move as an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II. Nauert said the US understands that phrases like "Polish death camps" are "inaccurate, misleading, and hurtful," but voiced concern the legislation could "undermine free speech and academic discourse." Members of Poland's Jewish community also weighed in Wednesday, saying in an open letter that they strongly oppose usage of the phrase "Polish death camps," but also oppose the law.

(More Poland stories.)

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