Polish lawmakers move to make use of phrase "Polish death camps" illegal

Polish lawmakers approved a bill that could punish those who blame Poland for murdering Jews or using phrases such as "Polish death camps" with up to three years in prison. The law is expected to apply to people outside of Poland, making it more difficult to enforce. Poland's Deputy Justice Minister: "This amendment equips Poland with the most important tools that have long been at the disposal of other countries."
Photo Credit: Ehud Amiton/TPS

The Polish Parliament approved a bill on Friday that prohibits mentioning that Poland was involved in Nazi war crimes and using phrases such as “Polish death camps,” where the Nazis systematically murdered millions of Jews in Polish territory during the Holocaust. According to the new legislation, anyone who violates this law could be punished with up to three years in prison, even those outside of Poland.

The law comes in response to several instances in recent years when foreign media utilized the phrase “Polish death camps” in order to describe Auschwitz and other extermination camps operated in Nazi-occupied Poland. In 2012, US President Barack Obama used the aforementioned phrase and caused a huge controversy in Poland.

Many Poles believe that using this phrase could lead others to believe that the Poles operated the extermination camps. Therefore, they have been vigorously working against it in recent years. “This amendment equips Poland with the most important tools that have long been at the disposal of other countries,” Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki said.

Those who oppose the law claim that it will be nearly impossible to enforce the law outside of Poland and that within the country’s borders, the law could restrict freedom of speech and affect indications of Polish involvement in crimes against Jews during World War II.



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