Why should the victims and witnesses of the Holocaust have to watch what they say for fear of being arrested?
We are making this public appeal out of our concern for the state of Polish-Jewish and Polish-Israeli relations. We call on all parties to exercise emotional restraint in the name of protecting the common good; the truth and the dialogue that has been fostered over the past quarter of a century. The Amended Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, passed by the Polish Sejm on 26 January to the next stage of legislation, introduces criminal penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for “public and contrary-to-fact conduct that attributes responsibility or co-responsibility for Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich to the Polish nation or the Polish state”.
This unfortunate bill has made major news in Poland and internationally, raising logical, moral and legal concerns. Why must a discussion of historical facts involve courts and prosecutors? Why should the victims and witnesses of the Holocaust have to watch what they say for fear of being arrested, and will the testimony of a Jewish survivor who “feared Poles” be a punishable offence? Why must this be argued based on paragraphs from the criminal code and not through the merits of debate? Is this law intended to be symmetrical to the law forbidding Holocaust denial? And why are certain professions given a free pass – why are only academics and artists free from prosecution for voicing “anti-Polish” opinions? What about Journalists? Teachers? Where is the line between acceptable education and art and punishable journalism, and who would determine these undeniable “facts”?