Mar 1, 2018

Poland attempts damage control over Holocaust speech law

Holocaust survivor Malkah Gorka holds a picture from her school days in Poland during a protest in front of Polish embassy in Tel Aviv. Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen / AFP / Getty Images

A Polish law making it illegal to attribute crimes committed during the Holocaust to Poland officially comes into effect today, though it is still being reviewed by a constitutional tribunal.

The big picture: Israel considered withdrawing its ambassador over the matter, forcing a Polish delegation to visit in an effort to diffuse the situation. And the United States has strongly objected to the law, which the State Department has warned would “inhibit discussion and commentary on the Holocaust." As a result, Poland’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Marek Magierowski traveled to Washington to meet with Jewish groups and U.S. officials.

At a breakfast with reporters on Wednesday, Magierowski said the justice ministry would seek to temporarily suspend the law until the constitutional review is over — a process he said would likely take a few weeks. However, certain statements assigning blame to Poland for the mass slaughter of Jews are now technically illegal.

  • "There is a serious crisis in our relationship now with Israel and with the United States," Magierowski acknowledged. He added that Poland "might have made a few mistakes" in terms of communicating the true intentions behind the law, which he said was designed to provide a "legal tool to counter the painful narrative that Poland is co-responsible for the Holocaust."
  • "Some ministers in the government were quite surprised by the intensity of the backlash,” he said, adding that the issue was a "distraction" from talks regarding permanent bases for U.S. troops in Poland and other key issues.

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