Polish president signs bill censoring free speech about the Holocaust


Polish president signs bill censoring free speech about the Holocaust

Clara Weiss

7 February 2018

Polish President Andrzej Duda signed into law Tuesday a bill censoring free speech about the Holocaust, after it has been passed by the lower and upper houses of the Polish parliament.

The bill criminalizes the use of the term “Polish death camp” for death camps such as Auschwitz or Sobibor that were built by the Nazis in occupied Poland during the Second World War. Both Polish and foreign citizens can be punished with up to three years in prison for using this term. The bill also penalizes people who are deemed to be ascribing crimes against the Jews to “the Polish nation” or the “Polish state.”

The law is a far-reaching assault on free speech. Even while it formally states that “scientific and artistic” creations are exempted, it will not only stifle public discourse on major issues such as Polish anti-Semitism and pogroms by Poles against Jews, but also impede scientific research.

For instance, a Holocaust survivor whose relatives were murdered by Poles or handed over by Poles to the Nazis could now be put on trial if his or her testimony could be interpreted as ascribing blame “to the Polish nation.”

The law will have massive implications for public education and public discussion. Moreover, there is little doubt that it is but a first step toward much further restrictions of free speech and scientific research into this and other parts of Polish history.

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the curator of the core exhibit of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, has warned of the “chilling effects” that this law would have on scientific research. Other historians, including Barbara Engelking, one of the main experts of the history…

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