In discussing the history of Poland during World War II, B’nai B’rith International has always strongly discouraged the use of inaccurate and deeply problematic phrases like “Polish death camps” to describe concentration camps built and operated by the Nazis on Polish soil. We understand that Poland was invaded and occupied by Germany and that the Polish people suffered terrible losses.
However, the draft law passed by the Polish Senate today by a 57-23 vote represents a wrong approach. We believe it will have a chilling effect on Poland’s examination of the country’s wartime role. The law would criminalize not only the phrase “Polish death camp,” but any suggestion of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
It is vital that every country confront the most painful and vexing episodes in its past in an open and honest way. For Poland, this means acknowledging a history of anti-Semitism that preceded the Holocaust and has persisted to this day. It also means recognizing that some Poles provided assistance to the Germans and some participated in massacres not orchestrated by the Nazis.
We urge the Polish government to reverse this ill-conceived law in favor of policies that would promote free speech and inquiry about this dark chapter of the country’s past. Openness and education are the keys to establishing a historical record based on truth rather than painful inaccuracies.