Polish President Andrzej Duda said Tuesday he will sign a controversial bill that outlaws blaming Poland for atrocities committed by Nazis during the Holocaust.
In a rare move, however, Duda also said he will ask Poland’s constitutional court to review the law, which could open the door to amendments by lawmakers.
The bill, which has caused outrage in Israel and strained diplomatic relations between Warsaw and Jerusalem, makes it a crime to blame the Polish state or people for the Nazi murder of Jews on Polish soil. Poland’s right-wing government claims the law is not intended to limit freedom to research or speak about the Holocaust. Rather, the legislation seeks to codify the nationalist position that the Polish state and people were also victims of Nazi terror, according to the bills sponsors.
But Israel has denounced the law as a whitewashing of history that prevents discussion about the role that some Poles played in facilitating Nazi crimes. Jewish activists also say the law has sparked a rise in anti-Semitism in Poland.
Before WWII, Poland was home to roughly 3.2 million Jews, the largest Jewish community in Europe. Nazis invaded and occupied Poland in 1939 and eventually built some of their most notorious death camps there, including Auschwitz and Treblinka. Historians have said that some Polish people collaborated with the Nazis and enabled the extermination of Polish Jews.
The dispute over the “blame” law has deeply wounded the relationship between Poland and Israel. On Monday, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin canceled a meeting with Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett over Bennett’s statement that “the Polish people had a proven role in the murder of Jewish during the Holocaust.”
Bennett acknowledged those remarks in a statement Monday evening.
“The Polish government cancelled my visit to Poland because I mentioned the crimes of its people,” he said, according to Haaretz. “It was my honor [to do so].”
Duda has attempted to ease some of the tension by suggesting a constitutional review of the law by Poland’s top court. It is not clear that Constitutional Tribunal would ask lawmakers to make any changes, as it is controlled by the ruling Law and Justice party, which backed the law.
Last week, the State Department urged Poland to consider changing or pulling the bill, saying it could affect Warsaw’s “strategic interests” and relationships with the U.S. and Israel.
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