Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Congressional Anti-Semitism Task Force Urges Polish President to Reject Proposed Holocaust Bill

January 31, 2018
Press Release

(Washington) Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Kay Granger (R-TX), Marc Veasey (D-TX), and Peter Roskam (R-IL), the co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, delivered a letter to Polish President Andrzej Duda urging him to reject legislation passed by the Sejm that that would criminalize references to Polish complicity in Nazi war crimes against Jews during the occupation of Poland during World War II.

"Free speech and open debate are the lifeblood of all democratic countries, especially relating to issues that are the most difficult to reconcile. With rising anti-Semitism throughout Europe, the region is strengthened by Poland’s leadership on Holocaust research, such as the work of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Passing this legislation is inconsistent with this admirable legacy."

A copy of the letter can be accessed here. Text of the letter is included below.

Dear President Duda,

As Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, we are alarmed by legislation recently passed by the Sejm and awaiting consideration by the Senate that would criminalize references to Polish complicity in Nazi war crimes against Jews during the occupation of Poland during World War II.

We are deeply concerned that this legislation could have a chilling effect on dialogue, scholarship, and accountability in Poland about the Holocaust, should this legislation become law. Additionally, it is highly troubling that this law was passed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day on which the world speaks openly about the horrors of the Holocaust to ensure such atrocities never happens again.

As we all know, Poland suffered terribly under the brutal occupation by Nazi Germany from 1939 to 1945. In this time, Poland’s population was devastated through the murder of almost two million non-Jewish and three million Jewish Poles. Thousands of Polish citizens risked their lives to save Jews during this period, and more than 6,600 have been rightfully recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem.

But, we must acknowledge the numerous documented instances of Poles aiding the Nazis, directly and indirectly, in the murder of innocent Jews. To criminalize anyone who acknowledges this reality would be an injustice. A focus on education, not criminalization, about inaccurate and harmful speech would be more beneficial in resolving this critical issue.

Free speech and open debate are the lifeblood of all democratic countries, especially relating to issues that are the most difficult to reconcile. With rising anti-Semitism throughout Europe, the region is strengthened by Poland’s leadership on Holocaust research, such as the work of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Passing this legislation is inconsistent with this admirable legacy.

Therefore, we hope that you will speak out against this bill and veto it should it come to your desk. We look forward to engaging with you on this important issue and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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