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Polish president to sign controversial Holocaust bill into law

Gali Tibbon, AFP | This file photo, taken on January 17, 2017, shows Polish President Andrzej Duda laying a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Israel.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday that he will sign a contested Holocaust bill into law, despite protests from Israel and the United States, and will refer the text to Poland's constitutional court for possible changes.


The measure imposes prison sentences of up to three years for mentioning the term "Polish death camps" and for suggesting "publicly and against the facts" that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany's crimes.

Duda also said he will ask the Constitutional Tribunal for clarifications about the bill. Those are likely to be issued after it goes into effect.

>> Read more: 'A will to rewrite history' behind Polish Holocaust speech law

Poland's right-wing government says the law is necessary to protect the reputation of Poles as victims of Nazi aggression.

But Israel has warned that the law could be used to ban true statements about the role that some Poles played in Nazi crimes.

The US State Department has also expressed concern that the bill "could undermine free speech and academic discourse".

Blurring 'historical truths'

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens including three million Jews. Helping Jews, even offering them a glass of water, was punishable by death in occupied Poland.

More than 6,700 Poles -- outnumbering any other nationality -- have been honoured as "Righteous Among the Nations", a title given to non-Jews who stood up to the Nazis, by Jerusalem's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem said it opposes the Polish bill, as it "is liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust".

But it added that to refer to the extermination camps the Nazis built in Poland as Polish is "a historical misrepresentation".

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)

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