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Polish lawmakers pass controversial Holocaust bill

By Susan McFarland
Polish lawmakers pass controversial Holocaust bill
Photographs are displayed at an exhibition called "Flashes of Memory - Photography during the Holocaust" in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Israel, on January 24. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Poland's Senate on Thursday approved a bill making it illegal to accuse Poles of involvement in the Nazi Holocaust.

The bill, which must be approved by Polish President Andrzej Duda, also forbids describing Nazi death camps located inside the country as Polish.

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Punishment for the crimes include fines or up to three years in jail.

The bill was designed to protect the country's image and show that Poland was a victim in World War II, bearing responsibility for crimes committed there after Nazis invaded the country and created death camps.

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The proposal passed the upper house of the Polish parliament with a 57-23 vote, with two abstaining.

Prior to its passing, Israel called for the bill to be dropped and said it received assurances from Warsaw that Israel's concerns would be addressed before going further with the bill.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the measure is an attempt to rewrite history and deny the Holocaust.

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The Israeli government, meanwhile, is backing a bill that would expand the country's existing Holocaust denial laws -- with punishments up to five years in jail for anyone who denies or minimizes the role of Nazi collaborators, including Poles, in crimes committed during the Holocaust.

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The United States also asked the Polish government to reconsider the bill, with concerns about free speech and further diplomatic division.

Critics of the bill include Polish artists, politicians and journalists, who have called for a repeal of the bill and have garnered about 100 signatures on a letter saying it goes too far, trying to make Poland "the only blameless nation in Europe."

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Also in the amendment is a plan to give legal aid to any Holocaust survivor prosecuted in a foreign country, for telling their story.

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