IHRA Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial Statement on Polish Legislation

The Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial of the IHRA expresses deep concern over the recent legal amendment to the Polish act on the Institute of National Remembrance.

“We, the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, wish to express our extreme concern over the recent decision by the Parliament of Poland on 26 January 2018 and the Senate of Poland on 31 January 2018 to pass an amendment to the act on the Institute of National Remembrance. Should the President of Poland sign it into law, this amendment brings with it the possibility of a government-imposed fine or up to a three-year term of imprisonment to persons, both within and outside of Poland, who “ascribe to the Polish People or to the Polish state responsibility or co-responsibility for the Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”

The lack of specificity in this act, particularly in Article 55a.1 through 55a.3 is worrisome. For example, who dictates what or which body will determine if a statement or narrative is in violation of this act? How does one determine if the offense “was committed as part of artistic or scientific activity?” Finally, what constitutes “intentional defamation of Poland”? Empirical research? Statements by political or cultural authorities? Scholarship and student research? The memories of Holocaust survivors or witnesses to the Shoah?

Seen in the light of recent public debates surrounding the history of the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland the imprecision of this amendment has led many to conclude that implementation of this amendment will stifle any discussion, any research, or any publication of works that do not fit popular and comfortable narratives about the past. Forced manipulation of discourse in this manner violates the tenets upon which the international community that Poland and its allies have built over the course of decades. It is also not in keeping with the spirit of the mission of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – an organization of which Poland has been a member since 1999. By inviting the possibility of punishment for research that considers the Holocaust and associated crimes in all of its facets, this act will lead to the circumscribing of history, which is but one form of Holocaust distortion.

We urge the government of Poland to reject this act as written, to continue engaging in multilateral international dialogue with experts on the Holocaust as it occurred in Nazi-occupied Poland, and to return to a culture of open discourse on the history of this terrible era in our collective experience.”

Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial

This statement has the support of the current chairs of the following IHRA groups:

Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial
Committee on the Genocide of the Roma
Committee on Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes against Humanity
Academic Working Group
Communications Working Group
Education Working Group
Museums and Memorials Working Group