On Tuesday, Polish president Andrzej Duda signed into law a controversial bill passed by the country’s nationalist-controlled parliament. With its passage marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the law is designed to criminalize any person who suggests that the Polish nation or Polish state held complicity in the crimes committed by the Nazi regime during World War II.
It’s a puzzling bill, for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s difficult to understand why members of parliament would pass a bill that invites questions and investigations that the signers seem interested in suppressing. The bill appears to be an attempt to aggressively shape historical records and discourage a search for truth, connections, justice, peace and reconciliation, all of which result from honest historical exploration and discussion.
We don’t know exactly what purpose the bill will serve, and it’s difficult to fathom the true intentions of those who drafted the initial legislation. But this gesture seems designed to undermine freedom of expression and distort the rule of law, which are both classic signals of authoritarian overreach. According the language of the text, “Whoever accuses the Polish Nation” of complicity in the crimes of the Third German Reich “shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.”
This is a chilling action taken by a stable democratic nation that experienced some of the worst atrocities of the era, and in the U.S., the gesture has been largely overshadowed by competing events that vie for a place in our news cycle. But here at Just Atonement we’re paying attention, and we hope the global community will not allow this decision or its underlying motivations to pass unnoticed.
Democracy requires vigilant and constant protection, and the most dangerous threats are often insidious and incremental. Join us as we monitor the outcome of this questionable decision. In the meantime, learn more about the details of the law by clicking here and here and here.