TEL AVIV – An Argentinian newspaper has become the first victim of Poland’s contentious Holocaust legislation, which took effect on Thursday despite pressure from Israel.
In its current form, the law calls for prison terms of up to three years for blaming Holocaust-related crimes on Poland.
On Friday, the nationalist Polish League Against Defamation (RDI) filed a lawsuit against the website of Pagina 12, a newspaper in Argentina, which claims the paper used a picture of anti-Communist Polish resistance fighters from after the Second World War in a December article about the Jedwabne pogrom. The pogrom saw more than 300 Jews massacred by their Polish neighbors during the Nazi occupation in 1941.
The article in question is from December, a month before the law was voted on by parliament and three months before it went into force. Are @DobreImiePolski suggesting that the law is retroactive? That it can be applied against those who broke it before it was even passed? pic.twitter.com/pLyYbcl3kF
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱💯 (@notesfrompoland) March 2, 2018
The RDI claimed the Buenos Aires-based Pagina 12 and journalist Federico Pavlovsky’s actions were “intended to harm the Polish nation and the good reputation of Polish soldiers.”
“By issuing such a statement, the publisher showed great historical ignorance for which he should officially apologize to all Poles,” the RDI said. The petition did not say whether the law can be applied retroactively to an article that was published before the legislation passed.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem on Thursday said that preserving the memory of the Holocaust is more important than maintaining good relations with Warsaw.
“Israel and Poland enjoy strong political bilateral ties based on common values,” Rotem said during a meeting with a Polish delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki. However, he continued, “Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is a matter beyond the bilateral relationship between Israel and Poland. It is a core issue cutting to the essence of the Jewish people.”
On Monday, Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz told a Knesset committee that the new bill will not be enforced anytime soon.
“The Polish Justice Ministry is committed to not enforcing the new law before there is an in-depth examination of all of its components, including a discussion with Israeli representatives,” said Chodorowicz, emphasizing that the two countries would continue to iron out the issues regarding the controversial legislation.
On Thursday, Breitbart Jerusalem reported on a little known, declassified U.S. State Department report from 1946 which documents evidence of Poles having “persecuted the Jews as vigorously as did the Germans during the occupation” from 1939 to 1945, and further testifies to widespread antisemitism in the country both before and after the war.
During 1944 and 1945, the document said, Jews were killed in large numbers, “allegedly by members of the Polish Home Guard (Armia Krajowa), the armed force formed by and loyal to the Government-in-Exile.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda’s authorization of the bill caused consternation in the U.S., with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that it could result in “repercussions” for Poland’s relationship with the U.S.
“Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry,” Tillerson said.
A translation of the bill reads: “Whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich … or other crimes against peace and humanity, or war crimes, or otherwise grossly diminishes the actual perpetrators thereof, shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.”