Poland’s New Law Stifles Discussion of the Holocaust

Sept. 21 2016

Recently the Polish cabinet approved legislation—expected to be passed by the parliament—making it unlawful to “accuse the Polish nation, or the Polish state, publicly and against the facts, [of being] responsible or complicit in Nazi crimes committed by the German Third Reich.” Violators could receive up to three years in prison. Most likely, the law will be used against those who write about Polish Christians who collaborated with the Nazis or killed, robbed, or extorted Jews during and after World War II. Jan Grabowski writes:

[T]he new law, with its ambiguous and imprecise wording, is meant to freeze any debates that might be incompatible with the official, feel-good, version of the country’s own national past.

This feel-good narrative, which the new Polish authorities espouse, is, however, based on historical lies and revisionism masquerading as a defense of “the good name of the Polish nation.” Just a few weeks ago Anna Zalewska, the Polish minister of education, declared herself unable to identify the perpetrators of the notorious 1946 Kielce pogrom. It is a matter of very public record that in 1946, in Kielce, in the center of Poland, one year after the end of the war, an enraged mob, incited by tales of blood libel, murdered close to 50 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust—women, men, and children. Unfortunately, the minister was unable to admit that much. “Historians have to study the issue further,” she said, before finally declaring “it was perhaps anti-Semites.” . . .

In the light of the clear message sent by the authorities, the new law, which should be adopted by the Polish parliament any day now, becomes a clear and present threat to the liberty of public and scholarly discussions. . . . [I]ntroducing prison terms for people who dare to tackle some of the most difficult questions of the country’s past puts Poland right next to Turkey, infamous for its laws against “slandering of Turkish identity.”. . .

Unfortunately for Polish authorities—and fortunately for those involved in the study of the past—the history of the Holocaust, which is at stake here, is not the property of the Polish government.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Maclean's

More about: Freedom of Speech, History, Holocaust, Poland, Politics & Current Affairs

To Today’s Cosmopolitan and “Oikophobic” Left, Israel Can Never Be Acceptable

Aug. 23 2019

On the day the Knesset passed its nation-state law last year, Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, “This is our state—the Jewish state. . . . This is our nation, language, and flag.” This declaration, argues Wiliam Voegeli, points precisely to what the American left finds so unpalatable about Israel:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Claremont Review of Books

More about: Anti-Zionism, Leftism, Nation-State Law, Nationalism