France hits out at Poland’s ‘ill advised’ Holocaust law
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France hits out at Poland’s ‘ill advised’ Holocaust law

Foreign Minister Le Drian stops short of suggesting EU take measures, hopes 'moral pressure will be sufficient'

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 30, 2018. (Ludovic MARIN/AFP)
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 30, 2018. (Ludovic MARIN/AFP)

PARIS, France — France criticized on Wednesday Poland’s new law that makes it illegal to attribute Nazi crimes to the Polish state, describing it as an “ill-advised” move.

“This law is ill advised, you should not rewrite history, it’s never a very good idea,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television.

Asked if the EU would take measures in response to the controversial Holocaust law, signed into law by Poland’s President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday, Le Drian said he hoped “moral pressure will be sufficient.”

“I also hope that the Polish people will reconsider, and in the next elections act in a way that removes the unfortunate political straitjacket imposed by nationalist factions,” he said.

“Anything that could pervert this memory is negative,” he said, saying the vote to bring in the law “should be condemned.”

The bill has drawn a chorus of criticism from countries including Israel and the United States.

It sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing “responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich — or other crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

Journalists visiting a renovated barrack at Auschwitz, Dec. 1, 2016. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

As currently written, the legislation calls for prison terms of up to three years for attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or nation. The bill would also set fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish.

One key paragraph of the bill states, “Whoever claims, publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich… or for other felonies that constitute crimes against peace, crimes against humanity or war crimes, or whoever otherwise grossly diminishes the responsibility of the true perpetrators of said crimes – shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.”

Israel has expressed deep concerns that the legislation could open the door to prosecuting Holocaust survivors for their testimony should it concern the involvement of individual Poles for allegedly killing or giving up Jews to the Germans.

But Duda and other Polish leaders say the law does not limit freedom of speech on Holocaust issues that are based in historical fact.

Duda also said he would send the legislation to the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether it conforms with guarantees for freedom of speech.

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