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None of the arguments against the law convinced the Polish legislator to reconsider the legislation and just five days later, during a nightly sitting, the Senat , the upper chamber of the Polish Parliament, approved the memory law. It now awaits the signature of the Polish President to become a binding law. Poland has a long history of tragic events.
There is no question that the Polish nation has suffered tremendous injustice at the hands of foreign regimes. Built meticulously over decades, the memory of Polish heroism, independence and liberation, combined with the bans on openly debating the historical truth that were in place during the Stalinist and communist regimes, merged with a natural social unwillingness to discuss the difficult past, have left the majority of the Polish nation falsely convinced it has always been a victim and never the perpetrator of crimes or vile acts.
Once communism collapsed and Poland regained its sovereignty and its capacity to settle with the past, complexities about the Polish-Jewish history and relations increasingly came to light. And yet, hardly anyone was and is prepared or able to accept both the painful truths, such as that of the Jedwabne Pogrom , where in July Poles burned their Jewish neighbours alive in a barn, and the scale of the responsibility for crimes committed against the Jewish neighbours.
Nevertheless, an effort to overcome the demons of the past that was made during over the years that produced some noticeable results and started a public discussion. Then, however, in the years the historic narrative which made Poles a nation of victims and hardly ever perpetrators again became the official public line forced upon the nation, in part by means of legal instruments.
Clearly, no such camps have ever existed. There have been, however, a number of German Nazi concentration camps designed and operated fully by the German occupiers of Poland. This approach appears not only to be ineffective but also to suppress the freedom of historical debate and generally the freedom of speech by restricting the range of acceptable interpretations of historical events with a view, primarily, to eliminating those that present Poles as anything less than heroic, in particular as those who assisted Germans in committing Nazi crimes against Jewish people.
Linking the direct responsibility of Poland or Poles to concentration camps created by the Nazi regime as places were millions have perished at the hand of the German Nazi occupiers of Poland is not merely false but also unacceptable in any respect and under any circumstances. However, as rightfully noted by Tomasz T. Koncewicz in his chapter recently published ed. The amended Act on the Institute of National Remembrance , with its new article 55a, refers very broadly to the attribution, to the Polish people or to the Polish state, of responsibility for Nazi crimes, crimes against peace, against humanity and other crimes, for which the perpetrator might be imprisoned for up to three years.
Attributing responsibility for very broadly defined crimes amounts not to historical facts, but to opinions. It must not be denied that Poles, such as shmaltsovniks, were complicit in Nazi crimes. On the other hand, attributing the role of individual people in such crimes to the Polish people not even all Polish people, but only a portion of them , does not amount to historical facts, but to opinions about facts.
If the legislative changes become effective as enacted by the Polish Parliament, such opinions could provide too broad a basis for prison sentences for e.
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Holocaust survivors accusing Polish shmaltsovniks. The rules of freedom of expression clearly established by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights also in the area of memory laws that individuals can be punished for false statements, lies or slander. Not for expressing different opinions, though.
Now, the new legislation provides for very broadly conceived liability for any acts attributing responsibility to the Polish people.