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Two Amendments to Polish Memory Law Make Waves

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Like many countries, Poland has made the denial or minimization of Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust, a crime punishable by imprisonment. Two amendments voted by the Diet on January 26 and then by the Senate on January 31 are causing a stir on the international scene. If the PiS was no doubt expecting hostile reactions in Ukraine by extending the offense of revisionism and denial to the glorification of the UPA and the OUN, the Ukrainian nationalist organizations guilty of the genocide of the Poles of Volyn and Western Galicia in 1943-44, it was obviously taken aback by the violence of the Israeli reactions to the other amendment to the Polish memory law. This amendment extends the memory crime regarding Nazi crimes to the minimizing of the responsibility of the perpetrators of these crimes by using “the Polish nation or the Polish state responsible or co-responsible for the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich”.

Yet, as the Jerusalem Post itself recalled on January 29, it is an established historical fact that Poland as a state and as a nation has not collaborated, unlike many other countries, with the Nazi occupier. And if the Jews, who suffered the most from Nazi crimes, are ticklish when it comes to the Holocaust, the Poles, whose country paid the highest price in the Second World War (6 million dead – including 3 million Jews – out of 35 million citizens), are no less so when we talk about Nazi crimes.

So, while Poland and Israel have maintained excellent relations so far, the Israeli leaders seem to have been trying for a week to do everything they can to get into trouble with the Poles, pretending to believe that it will not be possible anymore to question the behavior towards Polish Jews during the Second World War of their non-Jewish compatriots. The Israeli embassy even issued a statement on February 2 to accuse the Polish media of anti-Semitism for asking the question of the link between this collective hysteria regarding a memory law quiet normal after all (Israel has one too, which punishes with 5 years of imprisonment the denying or minimizing of the Holocaust) and the issue of restitution of property.

For, contrary to what was said by the Israeli ambassador to Poland and by several Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the new version of the Polish memory law does not question the historical truth about the Holocaust (an obvious fact for the Poles who still have in mind the stories told by their parents and grandparents!) nor the fact that there were several massacres of Jews by Poles and also many Poles who denounced Jews to the Germans. The new memory law does not forbid to say it or even to exaggerate their number, since it forbids only held responsible, or co-responsible, the Polish nation or the Polish State for the genocide of the Jews, and not to hold responsible Polish individuals or groups of Poles for such crimes.

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