Poland’s Attack on Free Speech


Poland’s Attack on Free Speech

BLOG: In An Attempt to Save Face and Alter History, Poland Bans Free Speech Concerning the Holocaust.

Holden Mandell| Opinions Writer
February 15, 2018

On this years’ Holocaust Remembrance Day, Poland signed in a new controversial law that makes it illegal to accuse the nation of being complicit with Nazi crimes during the Holocaust and outlaws the phrase “Polish death camps.”

Both are punishable by prison sentences of up to three years—a violation of free speech.

This law has seen serious backlash across the world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a bill attempting to ban the phrase “Polish death camps” was an “attempt to rewrite history.” Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, said, “Everyone in Israel was revolted at this news.”

Poland’s far-right politicians says the law is important to defend Poland’s integrity in the Holocaust.

“We have to send a clear signal to the world that we won’t allow for Poland to continue being insulted” – Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki

The truth is that Poland, like many other Nazi-occupied states, had citizens complicit in the extermination of Jews. The most infamous incident was in 1941 in the town of Jedwabne, Poland in which 400 Jews were set on fire in a barn by their neighbors.

Some Poles risked, alongside Nazis like Wilm Hosenfeld, their lives to shelter and save Jews. But many Poles did the contrary out of fear, hatred of Jews or to be left alone by the Nazis.

A law cannot change these facts. While the most basic reason for Polish complicity in the Holocaust would be to appeal to the Nazis, Polish complicity still existed.

While both sides agree the phrase “Polish death camps” is inaccurate, a ban on that is a violation of free speech. Few countries are privileged enough to exhibit the U.S.’ degree of free speech but free speech is still a fundamental human right. The government should not be allowed control of what you say or think.

Furthermore, this law is an attack on academia. It puts a screen on discussion of the Holocaust. Basic academic inquiry can be punishable by prison time and fines. Trying to alter and rewrite Poland’s history as victims of partition, genocide, and occupation at the expense of academic inquiry is ridiculous.

Poland’s recent wave of fervent nationalism has taken it too far at this point.

Since the Polish government has established its power to ban this type of free speech, what can stop it from extending these restrictions on other speech and phrases similar to ‘Polish Death Camps.’ It isn’t a farfetched assumption to say that speaking against the government or party in power could be illegal in the near future.

Debates are the best way to conclude Poland’s role in the Holocaust, not a law banning such discussion.

Holden Mandell is currently an opinion writer for The Mirror. He joined journalism in his junior year and has been part of journalism for a little over a semester.

Holden enjoys debating politics and culture with friends and its impacts on society. He has fun playing video games like League of Legends. Holden identifies as a libertarian with many mainstream conservative values. In his spare time he takes interest to listen to podcasts, watch Youtube videos, and play video games with his friends.

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