The Polish Government has passed a law making it a crime to say that the Polish Nation or State participated in the Holocaust.
There is no doubt that millions of Polish citizens were killed during the Second World War. About half of those were Jewish Poles and half were Christian Poles. These Polish people of either faith were shot, gassed, worked to death, starved or they died from insanitary conditions deliberately created by the Third Reich. The Poles experienced the most unimaginable suffering during the Second World War.
Much of the Holocaust took place in Poland when it was under German occupation. The Holocaust did not simply victimise Jews. Gays, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons, political dissidents, the disabled, Soviet Prisoners of War and others were also murdered.
Some Gentile Poles behaved with the utmost heroism to save Jewish people. A small number of Poles murdered their Jewish compatriots.
This law allows an exemption for artistic expression or academic research. Even so this is an unnecessary abridgement of freedom of expression.
I perceive how galling it is for Poles to read about ”Polish extermination camps” and so forth. Some ill-informed people could easily fall under the misapprehension that Polish people were chiefly responsible for the genocide that was perpetrated in their land 1942-45.
One of the reasons to oppose this law is that it could lead to erasure of the role of certain Polish individuals who took part in the Holocaust.
This piece of legislation also feeds a dangerous misconception. That is the notion that nations can be guilty or innocent. Guilt is an individual thing. Groups can be guilty but only insofar as individuals choose to take part in a crime. Nations being labelled as bad or good is what leads to racism.
Discourse can be irritating and misleading. There is a copious amount of misinformation around particularly on the internet. It is offensive to many Poles to see statements which attribute this genocide to their nation. But no people is entirely blameless or culpable.
Official versions of history protected by law is the sort of thing that totalitarian governments create. This law is well-intentioned but where will it lead? Is the Polish Government really going to imprison people for saying things which many find unpalatable?
I oppose laws that criminalise statements about history even when such statements are fallacious. Holocaust denial laws are the prime example. No other genocide is so enshrined in law. It reaches a stage when historical debate is criminalised. Holocaust denial law advocates also want the trivialisation of the Holocaust to be a crime. It is as though the figure 6 000 000 is sacred. What if it were proven that the true number is closer to 5 000 000? The Holocaust would still be what it is. A number is not a principle. Would stating that the scale of this mass murder has been exaggerated be tantamount to trivialising it? It is asinine and distasteful to make certain versions of history legally endorsed. This includes when one outlaws fallacies.
In briefest summary , this Polish law is part of a wider assault on freedom of expression. This chauvinistic government has shown a tendency to clamp down on dissent. This authoritarianism ought to be sternly resisted.