WARSAW: The ruling Law and Justice Party has formed a de-facto alliance with the other Visegrad Four nations of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, in opposing EU refugee quotas, promoting illiberal democracy as an alternative to liberal democratic values, and in maintaining close ties with Russia that are alarming to western EU members. The Polish government’s latest controversial move can be viewed as an act of revisionist history with its passage of the ‘Holocaust Bill’, an effort to absolve the Polish state of any responsibility for the roundup and deportation of Jews to concentration camps during World War II. The bill also authorizes jail time for anyone convicted of even suggesting that Poland played an active role in the Holocaust. Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the most notorious concentration camps where 1 million people were killed is located in Poland, and over 3 million Jews who lived in Poland were murdered by the Nazi regime.
Poland firmly on Europe’s periphery, with greater exposure to and influence from Moscow and Eurosceptic forces in the region. After the unprecedented threat of sanctions from Brussels over efforts to clamp down on the rule of law and an independent judiciary, there are legitimate arguments as to whether Poland would be admitted to the EU as a member state at the present time. The ‘Holocaust Bill’ serves to further alienate Central Europe’s largest economy from Western Europe, and the bill raises additional questions as to which elements of Polish history are seen as acceptable by the current government, which remains a fragile and dangerous precedent for nations in Central and Eastern Europe that are still coming to terms with their past in ways that more democratically developed nations such as France or Britain are not.
The bill also stands in sharp contrast to the way Poland’s neighbor to the west, Germany, has dealt with its tragic past in 20th century European history. Germany is now rightly seen as a model for learning to cope with and confront its difficult history, and unlike in the United States, Germany has banned the presence and symbols of Nazi and white supremacist propaganda from public forums. The Polish government has clearly decided to take a different route, prompting criticism from the Israeli ambassador, who decided to denounce the legislation at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.