AJC Central Europe is firmly opposed to legislation that would penalize claims that Poland or Polish citizens bear responsibility for any Holocaust crimes.

The bill approved by the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament makes it a crime, punishable by up to three years in prison, to use statements, such as “Polish death camps,” suggesting Poland bears responsibility for crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany.

“This kind of legislation is both provocative and totally unnecessary. It will inflame the debate over historical responsibility,” said Agnieszka Markiewicz, director of AJC Central Europe.

“Education, not punitive laws, is essential to building greater awareness of all the facts of what transpired in Poland during World War II and the Holocaust,” Markiewicz continued. “The Polish government should reconsider this measure aimed at penalizing the use of language, even if we agree this language should not be used.”

AJC, an organization long involved in Poland and steadfastly devoted to fostering strong links among the U.S., Israel, Poland, and world Jewry, has been for decades critical of such harmful terms as “Polish concentration camps” and “Polish death camps,” recognizing that these sites were erected and managed by Nazi Germany during its occupation of Poland.

However, Markiewicz noted, “while we remember the brave Poles who saved Jews, the role of some Poles in murdering Jews cannot be ignored.”

That the bill was adopted the day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, “made this action by Polish lawmakers all the more offensive,” she said.

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