British Jewish representatives have welcomed the Polish prime minister’s withdrawal of criminal sanctions from a controversial recent law that Israeli ministers said risked re-writing the history of the Holocaust.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made the changes to Poland’s Holocaust Law, which criminalised references to “Polish concentration camps,” and claims of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes.
The country has long sought to clarify that the camps on what is now Polish soil were not ‘Polish camps’ but rather Nazi camps, run by Germans, because the country was occupied by Nazi Germany at the time.
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said welcomed the repealing, as a “step in the right direction”.
She said: “The history of the Holocaust in German-occupied Poland is a complex and difficult one. When inaccurate language is used, it should be addressed through education and learning.
“We hope this decision ensures that the study of the Holocaust remains uninhibited in its objective research, discussion and education, and is done with the honesty and sensitivity it deserves. It is imperative that we always uphold the truth of the past.
Board of Deputies’ senior vice-president Sheila Gewolb said Morawiecki had made “the right decision” to remove the criminal sanctions from the law, which was passed by Poland’s politicians earlier this year.
“We have always said that the right way to properly address the complex and sensitive Polish role in the Holocaust – both in terms of individual Polish heroes who saved Jews, and the villains who joined in with their persecution – is through education, and not through criminalising the discussion,” she said.
“Regrettably, we note that Mr Morawiecki has nonetheless been equivocal about whether this is the right decision. We will be watching the legislative amendments closely to ensure the Polish Government carries this through to a just conclusion.”