Jewish groups urge Polish President Duda to veto controversial Holocaust bill

Poland's President Andrzej Duda.

WARSAW —Poland’s President Andrzej Duda will have to decide whether or not he signs a controversial law passed by the Senate that criminalizes any discussion of Polish complicity with the Nazi Holocaust.

Duda is now at the beginning of a 21-day period in which he has to choose whether to sign the bill, veto it, or refer it to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal.

Several Jewish organizations have urged the president to veto the bill.

Duda has not said whether he would sign the bill, but his spokesman told the Polish state radio : “The president believes that Poland, as any other country, has the right to defend its good name … has the right to defend the truth.”

 

Duda’s office stressed that it distinguishes between those who use the false term “Polish death camp,” which it believes should be punished, and those whose “personal memory or historical research speaks the truth about the crimes and shameful behavior that occurred in the past with the participation of Poles has full right to this truth” and would not be punished.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of the ruling conservative party Law and Justice (  PiS), told the public radio on Saturday that Duda should sign the law,

“He should sign it …. We must talk to our allies in a way that would allow them to understand that we have no intention of renouncing our dignity.”

Duda, a member of the right-wing Law and Justice party – Poland’s ruling party since 2015 – is considered pragmatic, moderate and statesmanlike. He is not drawn to provocations and seeks to defend Poland’s international position. He has blocked and softened past antidemocratic legislative initiatives by the present government.

In previous statements, Duda has demonstrated a nuanced position with regard to the role of the Polish people during the Holocaust, claiming that, as in any country, the Polish nation also had rogue elements who persecuted and murdered Jews, but those “removed themselves from Polish society.”

The issue has strained relations between Israel and Poland.

Israel sees the move as an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the  killing of Jews during World War II.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The law is baseless; I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”

Israel’s Ambassador to Warsaw Anna Azari said on Friday that there has been a wave of ant-Semitic verbal attacks in Poland in the days following the vote of the bill. “In the last few days we could not help but notice a wave of antisemitic statements, reaching the embassy through all channels of communication,” the embassy said, adding that Azari was personally targeted in many of the messages.

EJP :