Poland's conservative government approved a new bill on Tuesday (16 August) that criminalises the use of terms such as "Polish death camps" to refer to Auschwitz or other camps that Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during the Second World War. The draft legislation was approved by the cabinet and is expected to pass in the parliament, where the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) enjoys a majority.
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said a prison sentence of three years will be reserved for those "who intentionally slander Poland's good name by using terms like 'Polish death camps' or 'Polish concentration camps'." He added, "It wasn't our mothers, nor our fathers, who are responsible for the crimes of the Holocaust, which were committed by German and Nazi criminals on occupied Polish territory. Our responsibility is to defend the truth and dignity of the Polish state and the Polish nation."
The bill has been under discussion for many months and initially the punishment was decided to be up to five years. The toned down version approved on Tuesday could still see people face up to three years in prison.
Poland fears that younger generations across the world will falsely assume that the country had a hand in running the concentration camps – Auschwitz, Treblinka and other camps – as foreign media has often referred to the Nazi camps as "Polish".
However, critics said that the law will be of little use outside of Poland and alleged that the true intention was to suppress historical inquiry within the country into Polish behaviour towards Jews.
Millions of Jews from across Europe were exterminated in six concentration camps run by the Nazis between 1939 to 1945 in occupied Poland.