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Poland amends Holocaust speech law, scrapping jail terms

Andrzej Iwanczuk, AFP | Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attends a press conference after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Unseen) in Warsaw, Poland on March 19, 2018.

Poland's lower house of Parliament voted on Wednesday to remove jail penalties for suggesting the nation was complicit in crimes against Jews from a Holocaust law that angered the United States and Israel.

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Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asked parliament to amend the law on Wednesday morning - an unexpected announcement that came as his ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) seeks to bolster security ties with Washington and faces heightened scrutiny from the EU.

"We resign from the criminal provisions," the head of prime minister's office, Michal Dworczyk, told public radio, saying those parts of the bill would divert attention from the original point of the legislation.

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

The government said that following a public debate on the bill, it had decided that there were other "tools" it could use to "protect Poland's good name".

About 3 million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in occupied Poland - home to Europe's biggest Jewish community at the time - including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

Thousands of Poles risked their lives to protect Jewish neighbours during the war. But research published since the fall of communism in 1989 showed that thousands also killed Jews or denounced those who hid them from the Nazi occupiers, challenging the national narrative that Poland was solely a victim.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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