Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has signed a legal amendment to decriminalise the false attribution to Poland and Poles of crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, signalling a partial retreat on contentious legislation enacted this year.
The legislation, which threatened prison terms of up to three years for any breaches, sparked a war of words between Polish and Israeli politicians and an outpouring of antisemitic rhetoric in Poland, as nationalist and pro-government media sought to portray the country as under attack from an international anti-Polish campaign orchestrated by foreign powers and Jewish advocacy groups.
The amendment was passed by both houses of the Polish parliament during emergency sessions on Wednesday, and means anyone who “publicly and against the facts” accuses the Polish state or nation of being “responsible or complicit in” Nazi crimes will be guilty of a civil rather than a criminal offence.
According to reports in the Polish press, MPs from Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party were made aware of the changes only when they were reported in Wednesday’s morning news bulletins.
On Wednesday evening the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, held press conferences to present a joint statement on the controversy, in which they emphasised their commitment to working together to resolve the differences.
“We believe that there is a common responsibility to conduct free research, to promote understanding and to preserve the memory of the history of the Holocaust,” said the statement. “We have always agreed that the term ‘Polish concentration/death camps’ is blatantly erroneous and diminishes the responsibility of Germans for establishing those camps.”
My report for the Guardian can be found here.