Poland's Senate passes proposed Holocaust bill

The controverisal bill makes it illegal to accuse Poles of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust and using the expression 'Polish death camp'

Poland’s Senate has approved a controversial bill making it illegal to accuse Poles of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.

The law criminalizing the suggestion that Poles were collectively complicit in Holocaust-related war crimes and assigns prison terms of up to three years to individuals using the expression “Polish death camp.”

The bill includes individuals outside Poland who blame the Poles for having a part in the Holocaust.

The proposal caused a weekend rift with Israel, which accuses Poland of attempting to change history.

Earlier this week, Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he had reached an agreement with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to suspend the legislation. Now it is up to Polish president Andrzej Duda—who supports the new law—to sign it.

It passed in the upper house of the Polish parliament with 57 votes to 23, with two abstaining, according to AFP news agency.

On Monday, Duda stated that “there was no Polish participation, there was no participation of Poles as a nation in the Holocaust.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against the draft, calling for it to be dropped.

"I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied," he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, a US state department spokeswoman also asked the Polish government to rethink the bill, saying the US was concerned the legislation could undermine free speech in the country and cause further diplomatic division.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany during World War Two. Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust.

The camps were built and operated by the Nazis after they invaded the country in 1939.

That has been acknowledged by Israel's Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.

It is "a historic fact that the Germans initiated, planned, and built the work and death camps in Poland. That is the truth, and no law will rewrite it. These facts must be taught to the next generation", he said at the weekend.

Nonetheless, he added, it was "a historic fact that many Poles aided in the murder of Jews, handed them in, abused them, and even killed Jews during and after the Holocaust".

He called the law "a shameful disregard of the truth".

The Polish government said the bill was not intended to limit freedom to research or discuss the Holocaust, but protect the country's name abroad.

Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki, who authored the bill, said the Israeli reaction was "proof how necessary this bill is".