US welcomes changes in Poland’s controversial Holocaust law


(JTA) — The United States said it “welcomes” the Polish parliament’s vote to amend a law that made it a crime to accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust.

The Sejm, or lower house of parliament, voted Tuesday at the request of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to change the law to make it a civil offense, rather than a criminal one, to blame the Polish nation of crimes that were committed by the Nazis.

“This action underscores Poland’s commitment to open debate, freedom of speech and academic inquiry,” the State Department said in a statement. “The Holocaust and the crimes of the Nazis are an unspeakable tragedy in the history of Poland and mankind.

“We agree that phrases attributing responsibility to the Polish state for crimes committed by the Nazis on occupied Polish territory, such as ‘Polish death camps,’ are inaccurate and hurtful. Such misrepresentations are best confronted through free and open dialogue.”

The Senate must sign off on the amendment to finalize it. The amendment passed with 388 votes in the 460-member Sejm.

The United States had put pressure on Poland to amend the law, which was passed in February. Its passage had prompted sharp protests from Israel, as well as from other countries. Jewish organizations, including the World Jewish Congress, complained that the law was a violation of free speech and an impediment to historical research of the Holocaust.

In March, the Onet news site said it had obtained documents showing that Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda would not be received by President Donald Trump or any other member of the U.S. administration if the law was not revised. Onet said it did not publish the documents to protect the source.

Staff from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw also threatened to suspend funding for joint military projects between the United States and Poland, according to the Onet report.

Polish and U.S. officials denied the claims. But Trump and Duda did not meet during the Polish leader’s five-day visit to the United States last month, while Trump did meet with the president of Uzbekistan at the White House.

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