Now we look worse than ever
Poland’s gag law on Holocaust culpability has utterly backfired, said Jerzy Haszczynski. The law, passed in February, makes it a crime to attribute Nazi atrocities to the Polish nation or people, or to use the phrase “Polish death camps” to describe Nazi German concentration camps in occupied Poland. One could see the ruling Law and Justice party’s intention in this legislation; Poles find it infuriating to be unfairly blamed for the horrors of Auschwitz. But the law was understandably seen in Israel and the U.S. “as a gag stuffed in the mouth of the last Holocaust survivor.” Governments denounced it, and newspapers around the world began listing every instance of Polish complicity in roundups or killings of Jews here during World War II. The result was a global “outpouring about Polish crimes committed against Jews,” with not a word about the many Poles later deemed by Israel to be Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jews, nor any mention of valiant Polish resistance fighters. The true story of Poland during the Holocaust encompasses both “evil and heroism.” It will be years before we can undo the reputational damage caused by this misguided law—but at least the government appears to have realized its mistake. The gag law will now go before Poland’s constitutional court, and hopefully be consigned to history.