Europe

Poland president to review Holocaust bill after Israel outcry

A sign reading "Stop!" in German and Polish is seen at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, 27 January 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland

Poland's President Andrzej Duda says he will review controversial plans to outlaw any suggestion of Polish complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.

Israel has fiercely objected to the draft law, which would also make it illegal to describe Nazi death camps in Poland as Polish.

Critics say it seeks to limit discussion about Polish involvement.

Poland has long insisted it was blameless and the death camps were run entirely by occupying German forces.

The country was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany during World War Two. Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust.

Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust overall.

More Poles have been honoured by Israel for saving the lives of Jews during the war than any other nation.

However, historians say others were complicit by acts such as informing on Jews in hiding, for rewards, and participating in Nazi-instigated massacres including in Jedwabne where hundreds of Jews were murdered by their neighbours.

Poland's draft bill, which is an amendment to an existing Polish law, would make using phrases like "Polish death camps" punishable by up to three years in prison.

It must pass in the Senate and be signed by the president before it becomes law.

President Duda promised "careful analysis" of the legislation following the outcry from Israel on Sunday.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he strongly opposed the bill

Poland's government insists the legislation aims to prevent the international defamation of Poland, and is not intended to impede genuine academic debate.

But Israeli officials have condemned the bill.

"I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Israel's Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett acknowledged that phrases such as "Polish camps" were misrepresentative.

But he added: "It is a historic fact that many Poles aided in the murder of Jews, handed them in, abused them, and even killed Jews during and after the Holocaust."

The Polish charge d'affaires to Israel was summoned by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

During a phone call, Mr Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki agreed to open a dialogue on the issue.

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