The Atlantic

The Dark Consequences of Poland's New Holocaust Law

The country is stifling open discussion of war crimes—and jeopardizing its own standing on the world stage.
Source: Agencja Gazeta / Reuters

PARIS—The Polish historian Jan T. Gross, an expert on the country during World War II, didn’t mince words when I asked him about Poland’s new law that would criminalize mentioning the complicity of “the Polish nation” in the crimes of the Holocaust. “It’s terrible,” he said by phone from Berlin, where he lives. “It criminalizes all survivors of the Holocaust. Every Jew who is still alive and comes from Poland could be prosecuted.” That might be going a bit far—it’s still quite unclear how the law would be applied, and it’s hard to imagine extradition cases for discussing Polish war crimes outside Poland. But his concern is worth heeding.

Gross isn’t the only one who’s upset. Israel’s government is up in arms. A visit by Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, to Poland was after he criticized the law. (“The blood of Polish Jews cries from the ground, and no law will silence it,” he said later.) U.S. Secretary of State. So did the International Auschwitz Council, a board of advisers to the death-camp-turned-museum. And so did dozens of Polish historians, .

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