President Andrzej Duda announced today that he will sign the amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance. It will therefore enter into force. He will then refer it to the Constitutional Tribunal in order to ascertain whether freedom of expression is not restricted by new legislation.
“This is not a new law. I had discussions about this regulation a year ago in Israel. I was asked about this at the time, also by journalists. It has been requested that this law must not hinder artistic and scientific activities. This exemption was explicitly introduced into the law,” the president said.
“The law deals with an extremely painful, very sensitive issue related to the martyrdom of the Polish nation. This is an extremely important issue for us. During the war almost 6 million of our citizens died in Poland, including 3 million Polish citizens of Jewish descent. Poland was occupied from the very beginning of the war. Polish lands were torn apart. In the geographical sense the Polish state did not exist. There were lands that had previously been a Polish state. The wartime is one of the darkest periods in our history. It is true that the German Nazis built camps on our land. It is true that most of the victims were Jews. But millions of Poles died as well,” the president continued.
“For the Jews, it is a particularly painful, sensitive and emotional matter. I am very respectful of that pain and that great memory. Building good relations between Poland and Israel is very important to me. We have lived on this land for a thousand years, in our shared country. And this is our great common history that was abruptly torn by Germany,” the president stressed.
According to Duda, “doubts should be clarified and resolved,” because this is what respect for Survivors requires. “Their memories are a great reminder for the whole world that such a tragedy must never happen again. The testimony of Survivors is important. I would not want any of them to doubt whether they can freely give their testimony without being penalised for it.”
“It is also important to me that we, Poles, are not accused of involvement in the Holocaust. The historical truth is that Poles did not participate in the Holocaust in any systematic way,” said the President. “Poles tried to save Jews. There were various different situations on individual level. Poles have the largest number of Righteous among the Nations. But there were also cases of malice, there were blackmailers. There were cases of reporting on Jews in hiding.”
“This is such a difficult and painful matter, it has provoked so much discussion, sometimes very heated and emotional. That is why we have to remember, we need to provoke emotions, so that it never happens again, so that we are alert to cases of hatred on the grounds of nationality. There can be no place for any spark of hatred or hostility between nations. Anti-Semitism must not be tolerated in Poland. This must never happen again. It is also necessary to protect the good name of Poland and Poles. We, too, have a right to our sensitivity and historical truth,” the president said.
Yesterday, nationalists held a rally in front of the Presidential Palace. They held a banner proclaiming “Take off the yarmulke (kipa), sign the Act” addressed to the president.
“They [Jews] are attacking the nation that helped them during the war; the nation that has welcomed and hosted them on its lands for hundreds of years,” said Robert Winnicki during the rally. “One of the reasons for this international Jewish lie is money. Hundreds of millions of dollars that the Jewish communities want to get from Poland. They want to plunder Polish property.” Winnicki also emphasized that the nationalists would speak out about “Jewish crimes against Poles” and that Jews also collaborated with Germans during the war.
According to the amendment to the Act, “anyone who, in public and contrary to the facts, imputes that the Polish Nation or the Polish State was responsible or co-responsible for the Nazicrimes committed by the Third Reich or for other crimes against peace, humanity or war crimes, or otherwise grossly diminishes the responsibility of the actual perpetrators of these crimes, shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment of up to 3 years”.