USA 'disappointed' by signing of Holocaust law in Poland

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The measure would set fines or a maximum three-year jail term for describing Nazi Germany's extermination camps in the country as "Polish death camps" or for suggesting "publicly and against the facts" that the Polish nation or state was complicit in the genocide committed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Israel's ambassador to Poland Anna Azari, however, told the Polish PAP news agency that Israel believes the bill could open the door to prosecuting Holocaust survivors for their testimony should it concern the involvement of individual Poles allegedly killing or giving up Jews to the Germans.

Relations between the two countries have been greatly strained by the Polish government's decision to push forward with the legislation.

Poland's government has argued that it is fighting against the use of phrases like "Polish death camps" to refer to the camps Nazi Germany operated on Polish soil.

Israel said it still hoped Poland would make amendments.

"The blood of Polish Jews cries from the ground, and no law will silence it", he said.

Poland's Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz ruled out that possibility on Monday, saying under "Polish law and the legal system, this is impossible and we want to share this knowledge with our partners in Israel".

The bill was passed by the Polish parliament before being presented to President Duda.

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According to Jewish community leader Klaudia Klimek, Duda has requested that the tribunal probe whether it contravenes freedom of speech, and also whether the language of the bill is understandable to laypeople.

"The ruling party couldn't withdraw the bill under the pressure of foreign countries - Israel and the United States - and signing the bill would bring a diplomatic catastrophe", she said.

On February 5, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said he would travel to Poland to discuss the bill. The law targets a geographical shorthand, sometimes used overseas, for the extermination camps that the Nazis established on Polish territory during the Second World War.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the bill as a "distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust".

More Poles have been honoured by Israel for saving the lives of Jews during the war than any other nation.

Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Center similarly cautioned that the bill could "blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust", though it agreed that the term "Polish death camps" was a historical misrepresentation.

The official state visit was scheduled to convey Israel's formal opposition to the recent approval of the legislation criminalizing any mention of collaboration by the country or its citizens with its Nazi occupiers.

More than three million of Poland's 3.2 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of the Jews killed in the Holocaust.

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