I consider your visit a very clear sign and an attempt to find mutual understanding. I am here to familiarise you with the main objectives of the draft Act on the Institute of National Remembrance. I would also like to explain the context in which it has been drawn, the Prime Minister said during his meeting with representatives of Israeli media once he welcomed them in Poland.
The Prime Minister noted that the Polish context is different than the Israeli context, but
in fact, it should not be present at all, he underlined. He reminded that in spite of numerous wars Israel has faced over the past 500 years, it has been an independent state which was able to shape narrations on historical events on its own.
Poland, on the other hand, is a country that experienced the hardships of war alongside its Jewish citizens, but has a completely different history, the Prime Minister emphasized.
The Prime Minister reminded that Poland has regained its independence only in 1989, while after the World War II, the communistic elites that ruled over our country at the time
did not care for Poland’s reputation and did not wish to investigate complex issues of our history, he said. The Prime Minister pointed to the fact that currently, Poland and Israel reached a very important point in their common history.
There is not a single Polish family that had not lost their relatives during World War II
In the recent years, when terms such as ‘Polish death camps’ or ‘Polish concentration camps’ had emerged, a major part of the Polish society was outraged by the fact. It resulted in a growing pressure on us and I myself felt the urge to clarify the issue, to remedy this situation, the Prime Minister said.
When talking with Israeli journalists, the Prime Minister underlined that this is the reason why the draft Act on the Institute of National Remembrance was prepared nearly two years ago; as he emphasised, this act
has been discussed in numerous fora for the last twenty months and presented to the Embassy of Israel.
The expression ‘Polish death camps’ is offensive to Poles and, as such, constitutes a Holocaust denial. There is not a single Polish family that had not lost their relatives during World War II, stated the Prime Minister. As he added, there were 22–24 million Poles living in Poland during the war, of which 6 million lost their lives.
They were mainly killed by the German occupant, and some of them were murdered by Russian communists, said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
We are well aware of the tragedy that our Jewish brothers and sisters had to suffer
We, Poles, are well aware of the tragedy that our Jewish brothers and sisters had to suffer, as it took place on the Polish territory, over which the Polish government had actually no authority. The majority of 150 thousand Jews saved during the war managed to survive owing to help from Polish citizens, said the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister that citizens of other countries had often collaborated with the German occupant. As he added, Poland was the only exception in this respect. He also underlined that the Home Army attacked those who murdered Jews or betrayed them to the Germans, and recalled that helping Jews was punishable by death.
Taking into account the situation during the war and being aware of the war reality, I am convinced that no Jew would survive without help from Polish families. It is very likely that all or a vast majority of 150 thousand of Jews saved during the war managed to survived thanks to help they had received from Polish citizens, as well as kind-hearted Ukrainians and Belarusians. Probably 80 per cent of Jews were saved by Poles, whereas Ukrainian and Belarusian citizens saved respectively 10 per cent, stated the Prime Minister.
Amendment of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance
During his meeting with Israeli journalists, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki ensured that the intended purpose of the new provisions of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance is to counteract the dissemination of false information on the Holocaust and imputing crimes committed by the Nazi Germany to the Polish State.
When we see the expression ‘Polish death camps’ in the foreign press, I feel that this expression is very inappropriate and we really want to change it. The amendment of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance is not meant to censor the sad part of our common history in any way. We do not intend to deny that there were Poles that committed evil deeds, underlined the Prime Minister. As he added, he is well aware that this issue is very delicate and difficult for some Israeli citizens.
Those who used to live in Poland and know the reality understand the historical context very well. They know what the communism and occupation of Poland during World War II really were. I think that this context can be explained to everyone, including the Israeli society, with a bit of good will. It is necessary to stop further doubts and complication and to make it clear that we were guided by good will when preparing this Act, stated Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Pursuant to the amended Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, any person who, publicly and contrary to the facts, imputes responsibility or co-responsibility for crimes committed by the Third Reich or other crimes against humanity, peace and war crimes to the Polish nation or the Polish State, shall be subject to a fine or imprisonment of up to three years. The same penalty applies for
gross trivialisation of responsibility of actual perpetrators of those crimes.