Viewpoint – Poland oversteps with Holocaust gag order

By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief

Who in their right mind would want to diminish the extent of the brutal crimes of the Holocaust? Apparently, the Polish government.

In July 2017, the Polish Parliament passed the “Holocaust Bill,” formally titled the Amendment to the Act of the Institute of National Remembrance.

Signed by the country’s president Feb. 6, the bill criminalizes any public speech that suggests Poland or the Polish people were complicit in Nazi crimes and authorizes jail time for people convicted of suggesting such.

The Holocaust refers to Nazi Germany’s systematic extermination of 6 million Jews. Other groups, such as communists and gays, were also targeted.

Though the bill still has to go to a constitutional court for review, the world should be concerned that this kind of ideology and Holocaust denial has rekindled to a point where it’s impacting laws of some parts of Europe most greatly affected by the Holocaust.

Poland shouldn’t be allowed to minimize or ignore its role in the extermination of millions of European Jews.

It makes sense Poland didn’t have to pay the same price for World War II as Germany, but its government’s attempt to reword history is wildly concerning. The truth is some Polish citizens did have a hand in Holocaust crimes just like the French military did.

Reminiscent of the “not all men” mentality undermining the feminist movement, this gag order boasts “not all Poles.”

Those saying or thinking “not all Poles” fail to see that heroism and complicity can coexist. And they absolutely do in Poland.

The bill dangerously blocks this contradictory reality and promotes the avoidance of historical responsibility, deflects blame and grants the ownership of World War II “truth” to the Polish government, making more room for Holocaust denial and preventing the exploration of such complexities.

It could also have harmful domestic effects as it paints the country’s Jewish population as a national liability instead of full-fledged Polish citizens who deserve to have their stories told and history preserved, no matter how uncomfortable the truth may be.

It’s been 73 years since Auschwitz was liberated, and it’s past time for Poland stop denying responsibility for the part it played.