Ottawa, ON — Today, the Polish legislature amended a law passed in January that criminalized statements that suggest that the Polish state or nation was complicit in the Holocaust. The law, which met widespread criticism, called for prison terms of up to three years for those convicted.
Today’s amendments remove the criminal provisions and associated penalties from the legislation.
“We are grateful that Canada and other countries have spoken out against the law,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “In partnership with Canadian Holocaust Survivors, we have been working to defeat the legislation by mobilizing thousands of community members to email the Polish Embassy to voice their objections.
“In our meetings with Polish diplomats in Canada, we have made it clear that the law threatens free speech, obstructs genuine Holocaust remembrance, and is a stain on Poland’s global reputation.”
In February, CIJA presented to the Polish ambassador a letter signed by 4,000 Canadians objecting to the legislation.
“We are pleased this message has been received, and we reiterate our call on the Government of Poland to scrap this legislation entirely,” said Fogel.
Edit Kuper, Co-President of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants (CJHSD), agreed. “We are encouraged by today’s amendments, which are a step in the right direction,” she said. “However, we remain deeply concerned that the legislation continues to put an unacceptable chill on freedom of speech, including on the ability of Survivors, descendants, and historians to share the truth about what happened in Poland during the Holocaust.”
“We were particularly alarmed to see a spike in antisemitism in Poland as the bill was debated earlier this year. We urge Poland to do more to protect its Jewish citizens.”
The extermination camps on Polish soil were German Nazi death camps, not Polish death camps. Yet, that some Polish citizens murdered Jews and contributed to genocide is undeniable.
That members of Poland’s National Resistance Movement included antisemites and murderers who went out of their way to kill Jews is also undeniable.
Over the past year, CIJA has also expressed serious concerns about another piece of legislation impacting the restitution of property stolen during the Shoah, and stressed the need for the Polish government to provide fair and just restitution for Survivors and their descendants.