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article imageUS 'concerned' over controversial Polish Holocaust law

By AFP     Jan 31, 2018 in World

The United States on Wednesday said a controversial bill before Poland's parliament that sets fines and jail terms for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish could undermine free speech.

The draft legislation, which must still pass the eastern European country's upper house and be signed by its president before it becomes law, has angered Israel and Ukraine, which have accused Warsaw of trying to rewrite history.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens including three million of its Jews, who numbered 3.2 million before the conflict.

But the country's governing nationalists, who came to power in 2015, have sought to push back against suggestions of Polish complicity in the Nazis' campaign to eradicate Jews.

"The history of the Holocaust is painful and complex. We understand that phrases such as 'Polish death camps' are inaccurate, misleading, and hurtful," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement issued Wednesday.

It added: "We are concerned, however, that if enacted this draft legislation could undermine free speech and academic discourse. We all must be careful not to inhibit discussion and commentary on the Holocaust.

"We are also concerned about the repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland's strategic interests and relationships – including with the United States and Israel."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reacted furiously to the bill Sunday, saying: "We have no tolerance for the distortion of the truth and rewriting history or denying the Holocaust."

Polish President Andrzej Duda has already promised to review the legislation, saying he would present his "final evaluation of procedural legal provisions after the completion of parliament's work and a careful analysis of the final shape of the act."

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