New Law in Poland Will Make It Illegal to Suggest Poles Were Responsible for Death Camps

Belzec, Nazi extermination camp. Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

Anyone referring to the WWII death camps the Nazis established in occupied Poland as “Polish Death Camps” will potentially be breaking the law in the near future.

Prime Minister Beata Szydło’s cabinet approved the legislation on Tuesday. Parliament is expected to pass the legislation into law since the Law and Justice Party has the majority.

The bill is intended to address the issue of foreign media referring to the Nazi concentration camps as Polish and thereby insinuating that the Polish government played a role in the operation of the camps.

The bill makes it illegal to “publicly and contrary to the facts” suggest that Poles participated in, or were responsible for, the crimes of the Nazis.

During the war, millions of people, mostly Jews, were killed in six German-run camps in occupied Poland. Ninety percent of Poland’s Jewish population were killed in the camps.

The Ministry of Justice said that the bill “will effectively combat the lies detrimental to the good image and good name of Poland, reproduced mainly by foreign media.”

There were examples of Polish atrocities against the Jews, however. In 1941, villagers in the Polish village of Jedwabne burned 300 Jews alive in a barn, though the Nazis may have instigated that act. In 1946, 42 people, most of whom had survived the Holocaust, were murdered in Kielce, about 90 miles south of Warsaw.

If the bill passes, using phrases like “Polish concentration camps” will result in up to three years’ jail time.

Some in Poland are afraid that future generations will assume that Poles were responsible for the death camps in their country.

 

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE