Europe

Nazi atrocities: Implying Polish guilt to become crime

  • 15 February 2016
  • From the section Europe
Auschwitz Image copyright AP
Image caption Auschwitz was one of six extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Poland

The government of Poland plans to introduce a law making it a crime to imply the country bears any responsibility for atrocities carried out on Polish soil by Nazi Germany.

People could face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

The bill was drafted in part as a response to the phrase "Polish death camps" which often appears in the foreign media as a shortcut term.

In such cases, the state could pursue civil action and claim compensation.

The bill would make it illegal to say that Poland "took part, organised or was co-responsible for the crimes of the Third Reich".

Millions of people, mostly Jews, from across Europe were killed in six German-run extermination camps on Polish soil.

Further Holocaust atrocities were committed in concentration camps and ghettos in Poland.

The country was occupied by the Nazis between 1939 and 1945. Ninety percent of Poland's pre-war Jewish population were murdered.

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When the current Polish governing party, Law and Justice, was still in opposition it introduced a similar bill to parliament in 2013. However, that bill was rejected on the first reading.

In 2012, the White House said US president Barack Obama "misspoke" at a public event when he referred to "Polish death camps".

A spokesperson for Poland's Ministry of Justice told journalists that Mr Obama would not be prosecuted under the law as it would cause a diplomatic scandal.

However, he said, the ministry wanted to make sure this did not happen again.

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