Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday called on Poles to refrain from making anti-Semitic statements at a time when the country is under fire over a controversial Holocaust law.
“I would like to invite every one of you to contribute to positive thinking… to avoid anti-Semitic statements, because they are grist to the mill for our enemies, for our adversaries,” Morawiecki said at a town hall meeting in the eastern city of Chelm.
“Let’s avoid it like the plague, even the dumb, unnecessary jokes. Most importantly, let’s all explain together how things really were.”
The new law 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” and set off criticism from Israel, the United States and France.
Morawiecki’s comments echo those of the influential head of the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
“Today, the enemies of Poland, one can even say the Devil, are trying a very bad recipe… This sickness is anti-Semitism. We must reject it resolutely,” Kaczynski said on Saturday.
Israel this month said it had observed a “wave of anti-Semitic statements” on the internet in Poland, and even in the country’s mainstream media.
A recent commentator on the state-run TVP station had made the ironic statement that “we could say these camps were neither German nor Polish but Jewish. Because who operated the crematoria? And who died there?”
Another commentator had sent out a tweet using an offensive term against Jews that translates to “greedy kike.”
Separately, an adviser to Poland’s president said that Israel’s reaction to the legislation stems from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust.”
Andrzej Zybertowicz made the remark in an interview published Friday in the Polska-The Times newspaper.
The main aim of the Holocaust law is to prevent people from erroneously describing Nazi German death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau as Polish, simply because they were set up on Polish soil.
The bill was signed into law Tuesday by President Andrzej Duda but has yet to receive final approval from the country’s Constitutional Court.
The law has sparked anger in Israel, where Holocaust survivors and others with roots in Poland fear it will allow the government to whitewash the role some Poles had in killing Jews during WWII.
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.”