Polish PM defends Holocaust bill that upset Israel, Ukraine

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In an interview on the Polish state television channel TVP, the Polish prime minister insisted that Warsaw understands Israel's emotions concerning the matter.

The legislation set fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish or accuses Poland of complicity in the Third Reich's crimes. Rather than suppress discussion of Poland's role in the Holocaust, it is likely to stimulate more of it.

Israel has strongly condemned the bill, and in a statement this week the U.S. State Department warned that its passage "could undermine free speech and academic discourse".

IN RESPONSE, the Polish Foreign Ministry said the legislature's "main aim is to fight all forms of denying and distorting the truth about the Holocaust, as well as belittling the responsibility of its actual perpetrators".

"In light of the Polish Senate's approval of the bill, Israel asked to postpone the planned visit in Israel of the head of the Polish national security council", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday. The bill criminalizes any accusations against Poland of complicity in war crimes during World War II, including the Holocaust, as well as any denials of the killings of Poles by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the same period, and banishes the Ukrainian nationalist ideology.

Poland's Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said the government had acted in "good faith", and the country's foreign ministry said the legislation is meant to "protect historic truth" and "fight all forms of denying and distorting the truth about the Holocaust". "History is not considered a science by the Polish government, it is a tool for national awareness", he says.

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The legislation has sparked a major diplomatic crisis with Israel.

"We have not forgotten and not forgiven", Lapid wrote. "We won't let anyone rewrite history", he declared. It's time to admit that Benjamin Netanyahu is not a political prodigy. Millions more Polish Jews and other non-Jewish Polish civilians were murdered across the country.

United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev said the draft law can not erase the history of Poles turning in their neighbors and co-workers to the Nazis, not to save themselves but out of pure hatred of the Jews.

Survivors and guests walk past the "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free") gate at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, during the ceremonies marking the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the camp and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, in Oswiecim, Poland on January 27, 2018. "We can not forget, not the Nazis and not those who cooperated with them", the Jewish Press quoted him as saying.

He insisted the law - which has been passed by parliament and awaits the president's signature - would not impinge on freedom of speech, as feared by some. As the Israeli Holocaust remembrance center Yad Vashem pointed out, that could have the effect of obscuring "historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population".