Polish Holocaust law is about the truth | Letters

Poland’s ambassador Arkady Rzegocki defends his country’s new legislation related to the fight against the term ‘Polish camps’ in foreign media

I was surprised to see the public appeal by Polish opposition politicians and intellectuals about the Amended Act on the Institute of National Remembrance (Letters, 6 February). British readers deserve to learn about the Polish government’s position. The law concerns only the protection of the “Polish state and nation”. Contrary to what its critics say, it does not protect individual Polish citizens who committed crimes against Jews, nor does it ban anyone – especially the survivors – from speaking about the cruelty and injustice which they experienced.

We often see why this matter must be regulated by law. It is because the long-standing educational and governmental efforts – including by one of the letter’s signatories, the former foreign minister Radosław Sikorski – have not brought about sufficient effect. It is disgraceful that Polish prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau who fight against the term “Polish camps” in foreign media must do so individually as civil plaintiffs in courts to protect the good name of their nation. Meanwhile, the Polish state has not been able to work out effective legal solutions to support them.

The new law does not set a precedent. Legislation penalising, for example, Holocaust denial is also reflected in the legal systems of other European countries. According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of Holocaust denial, this is not only a denial that the Holocaust took place, but also a distortion of historical truth about its perpetrators and its circumstances. We believe that the truth about German death camps and the cruel reality of the German occupation of Poland is a part of the Holocaust’s history, and see the new law as complementary to the existing world regulation on Holocaust denial.
Arkady Rzegocki
Polish ambassador to the UK

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