Foreign Ministry: Ties with Poland important, Holocaust memory even more

Foreign Ministry: Ties with Poland important, Holocaust memory even more

In a further sign of Warsaw's deepening global isolation, a new Holocaust law that has angered Israel and the United States, Poland's close North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, came into force on Thursday.

For years Polish officials have struggled to fight phrases like "Polish death camps" that are sometimes used overseas to refer to death camps that were built and operated by Nazi Germany on occupied Polish territory during World War II.

Stripping Poland of its EU voting rights remains unlikely because it would require unanimity among all other EU governments and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, himself seen by the EU as weakening democratic checks and balances, has promised to block any such action against his Polish ally.

But the dispute could badly hurt Poland if other member states move to cut vital funding in looming budget talks.

The Commission, Poland's opposition parties and various global legal bodies and non-governmental organizations believe the PiS changes not only put courts under the control of the justice minister - a politician from the ruling party - but also violate Poland's constitution. Poland is now the biggest beneficiary of the European Union budget.

The US State Department report from May 15, 1946 - released by Simon Wiesenthal Center on the same day Polish Holocaust law when into effect - found "evidence that Poles persecuted the Jews as vigorously as did the Germans".

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In a long-running clash, the executive European Commission has accused Poland's ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) of undermining the rule of law with reforms to the judiciary and state media since taking power in late 2015.

Before the meeting, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki said his delegation was "committed to join our efforts to promote truth about the Holocaust and the Polish-Jewish centuries-old relationship".

More than 90 per cent of the 3.2 million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis during their occupation of the country, accounting for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The law provides the criminal penalty for the public accusation of Poland in the crimes committed during the Holocaust, in the aiding to Nazi Germany, military crimes or the crimes against humanity.

The law has also created tensions with Ukraine due to a provision that criminalises denying the wartime crimes of Ukrainian nationalists, who killed up to about 100,000 Poles in wartime massacres.

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