Poland's President Duda says will sign Holocaust bill into law
Duda says will ask the Constitutional Tribunal for clarifications about the controversial bill but nevertheless sign it into law; his approval is the last stage in the legislative process, after both houses of Polish parliament approved it.
Poland's President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday he will sign into law a bill imposing jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the Holocaust, defying criticism from Israel, the United States and activists.
The measure imposes prison sentences of up to three years for mentioning the term "Polish death camps" and for suggesting "publicly and against the facts" that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany's crimes.
In a televised address, Duda said the legislation would ensure Poland's "dignity and historical truth."
President Duda said the bill would protect Poland's interests "so that we are not being slandered as a state and as a nation. But it also takes into account the sensitivity of those for whom remembering the Holocaust is extremely important."
"We do not deny that there were cases of huge wickedness" in which Poles denounced Jews, Duda noted, adding, however that "No, there was no systemic way in which Poles took part in it."
He added that he would ask the Constitutional Tribunal for a number of clarifications about the bill. Those would likely be issued after it goes into effect. The legislation provides exemptions for research and art.
Poland's right-wing government says the law is necessary to protect the reputation of Poles as victims of Nazi aggression.
The bill sparked outrage in Israel, raising tensions with a close ally. Israel sees it as an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II. Activists say the passage of the bill has encouraged a rise in anti-Semitism.
The bill has also drawn criticism from the United States and condemnation from a number of international organizations as well as Polish minority groups.
Poland, which had Europe's biggest Jewish population when it was invaded by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union at the start of World War Two, became ground zero for the "final solution," Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe.
More than three million of Poland's 3.2 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of the Jews killed in the Holocaust. Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in Poland, including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.
According to figures from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis also killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.