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.