State Department calls on Poland to 'reevaluate' Holocaust legislation

State Department calls on Poland to 'reevaluate' Holocaust legislation
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The State Department warned Poland over legislation aimed at criminalizing acts that blame the country's government and citizens of being complicit in war crimes committed by the Nazis in World War II.

"We encourage Poland to reevaluate the legislation in light of its potential impact on the principle of free speech and on our ability to be effective partners," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"We all must be careful not to inhibit discussion and commentary on the Holocaust. We believe open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering inaccurate and hurtful speech," she continued. 

"The resulting divisions that may arise among our allies benefit only our rivals," Nauert said. 

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The legislation, which was passed 57-23 by the country's senate, is designed to punish individuals who refer to Nazi concentration camps in Poland as "Polish death camps."

The bill currently awaits President Andrzej Duda's signature. 

If implemented, offenders would face up to three years in prison. 

The situation could create a rift between the U.S. and Poland, which have enjoyed friendly relations under the Trump administration. 

Poland's foreign ministry responded to the U.S. by saying "the current legislative work under way in Poland to develop legal solutions that would protect historical truth will not affect Poland’s strategic partnership with the United States."

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz has encouraged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recall Israel's ambassador to Poland as a means of protesting the legislation. 

Katz said the measure "constitutes a denial of responsibility and of Poland's role in the Jewish Holocaust," according to Haaretz.