WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s main opposition party Tuesday issued an amendment to the government’s controversial Holocaust bill, which was meant to defend Warsaw’s image abroad but instead stoked tensions with Israel, Ukraine, and the US.
However, the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party’s proposal has no chance of being adopted since the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party controls both houses of parliament.
“The political crisis triggered by clumsy and disastrous diplomacy, by thoughtless remarks, has brought us to a point where we politicians are forced to react,” Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna told reporters.
“We are proposing a draft amendment that should correct the mistakes.”
The Holocaust legislation, which takes effect next week, penalizes statements attributing Nazi German crimes to the Polish state with a jail sentence of up to three years.
But Israel sees it as a bid to deny the participation of individual Poles in the extermination of Jews, an accusation rejected by Warsaw.
Critics also worry that, because of vague wording, the legislation could open the door to prosecuting Holocaust survivors for their testimony.
Poland’s opposition suggests replacing the bill’s controversial passage with penalties against “anyone who publicly and contrary to the facts attributes to the Polish state responsibility or co-responsibility for the German Third Reich’s creation of concentration and death camps, as well as for the genocide that took place there, or who minimizes to a flagrant degree the responsibility of the real authors of these crimes by using the terms ‘Polish death camps’ and ‘Polish concentration camps.'”
The PO also suggests deleting a passage concerning crimes committed against Poles by Ukrainians, which, according to Kiev, presents Ukrainians as nothing but “nationalist criminals” and “Third Reich collaborators.”
The senate speaker and PiS member Stanislaw Karczewski had called on the opposition to refrain from tabling the amendment which he said would only “stoke the fire.”
The bill has drawn criticism from several governments and Jewish organizations, as well as media outlets around the world.
It has also triggered public debate in Poland, where the Israeli embassy noted an increase in anti-Semitic statements.