WARSAW, Poland – A Polish law that makes it a crime to accuse the Polish nation of crimes that were committed by Nazi Germany took effect on Thursday, part of a larger effort by the nationalist authorities to harness history for its larger purpose of defending the country's honor and pride.
For years Polish officials have struggled to fight phrases like "Polish death camps" that are sometimes used abroad to refer to death camps that were built and operated by Nazi Germany on occupied Polish territory during World War II. Some Poles fear that as the war grows more distant, new generations will mistakenly come to believe that Poles were the perpetrators of the Holocaust.
The law, however, has sparked a crisis with Israel, where Holocaust survivors and officials fear its true aim is to repress research on Poles who killed Jews during World War II.
That is something that Polish officials deny. They insist that the law, which calls for prison sentences of up to three years, will only punish those who publicly and "against the facts" accuse the Polish nation as a whole for crimes committed by the Germans.