The American Jewish Committee (AJC), an organization uniquely devoted in the Jewish world to strengthening Polish-American-Israeli-Jewish relations for nearly three decades, expresses its profound regret that Polish President Andrzej Duda has indicated a readiness to sign a highly controversial bill adopted by the Parliament.

The measure makes it a crime, punishable by up to three years in prison, to make statements indicating any Polish complicity in crimes committed during the Holocaust.

“It is a sad day for Poland,” said Agnieszka Markiewicz, director of AJC’s Warsaw-based Central Europe office. “Of course, Poland was the first country to be attacked by Nazi Germany, triggering the start of the Second World War, and, of course, Poland fought valiantly against the invaders, continuing to do so through an extraordinary resistance network after the country’s occupation. And yes, more Poles have been honored by Yad Vashem for their life-saving efforts to protect Jews during the war than any other nation. But, and it is a significant but, there were acts of anti-Semitism, including murder, by individual Poles, even as both Poles and Jews were targets of the Third Reich. This tragic fact, and discussion about it, cannot be buried, denied, or banished by a misguided law.”

“Moreover, it is painful to see Poland, which has made such remarkable strides as a country since the dramatic events of 1989, suddenly in a deep crisis with Israel, a strategic partner; with the Jewish world, which had begun to show so much interest in the country; and, yes, with the United States, an essential ally,” Markiewicz continued. Both the U.S. State Department and several leading Members of Congress have voiced opposition to the legislation.

“If there is one hope now, it is in the fact that President Duda said he would refer the bill to the Constitutional Tribunal for judicial review,“ Markiewicz concluded. “Perhaps the judges will recognize the flaws in the legislation and thereby reopen the issue. Meanwhile, together with likeminded friends inside and outside Poland, we shall continue to urge respectful and open dialogue among all the parties involved to try to help restore the bonds of trust that ought to be in everyone’s best interest.”

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