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Act on the Institute of National Remembrance

The Act on the Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Polish: "Ustawy o Instytucie Pamięci Narodowej - Komisji Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu") is a 1998 Polish law that created the Institute of National Remembrance. This memory law was amended twice, in 2007 and 2018.

The 1998 Act's Article 55 criminalized historical negationism of crimes committed against Poles or Polish citizens by Nazi or Communist polities; of crimes against peace or humanity; of war crimes; and of political repression—all these being listed in Sections 1 a and 1 b of Article 1. While Holocaust denial was not explicitly mentioned, it is understood to be implicity criminalized.[1]

The 2007 amendment dealt with lustrations conducted in Poland.

The 2018 amendment added an Article 55 a, making it a crime to "ascribe Nazi crimes to the Polish Nation or to the Polish State"; and an Article 2 a, concerning crimes perpetrated against Poland or Poles by Ukrainian nationalists collaborating with Nazi Germany.[2]. The amendment caused an international controversy.[3]Article 2 a was appealed by Polish President Andrzej Duda and found to be unconstitutional by the Polish Constitutional Court, which decreed it null and void.[4]


1998 actEdit

The Institute of National Remembrance was established by a Sejm Act of 18 December 1998.[5]

Article 55Edit

The Act's article 55 criminalized "public denial, against the facts, of Nazi crimes, communist crimes, and other offenses constituting crimes against peace, crimes against humanity or war crimes, committed against persons of Polish nationality or against Polish citizens of other nationalities between 1 September 1939 and 31 July 1990";[6] and is therefore sometimes restrictively referred to as the "law against Holocaust denial.[7]

In 1999 an Opole University history professor, Dariusz Ratajczak, was tried under Article 55 for his Holocaust denial, was found guilty, and was sentenced to a year's probation.[8][9]

2007 amendmentEdit

The 2007 amendment dealt with lustrations conducted in Poland.

2018 amendmentEdit

The 2018 amendment, intended "to eliminate public misattribution to the Polish Nation or the Polish State of responsibility or co-responsibility for Nazi crimes committed by the German Third Reich", was signed into law by President Andrzej Duda on 6 February 2018. The Amendment will come into force in 3 months after its signing.

Article 55a, referred to by critics variously as the "Polish Holocaust bill", the "Poland Holocaust law", etc., has caused international controversy.[3] Critics fear that Article 55a poses an obstacle to free discussion of historical facts about the Holocaust in Poland.

Article 2a, dealing with crimes perpetrated against Poland or Poles by Ukrainian nationalists, caused controversy in Ukraine.


A 2006 law with some of the same aims, Article 132a of the Polish Penal Code, was passed in 2006, but was invalidated in 2008.[1]

After a period of lobbying, the first version of the 2018 Amendment was drafted on 17 February 2016 by Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro. On 30 August 2016 the Council of Ministers, presided over by Prime Minister Beata Szydło, forwarded the draft to the Sejm. [10]

The principal rationale given at the submission of the first draft was that diplomatic and public interventions against use of the misleading term "Polish death camp" and the like had proven ineffective. Therefore, it had been decided to create a legal instrument for "counteracting the falsification of Polish history and for protecting the good name of Polish citizens." Thus a new type of crime had been defined, "consisting in the attribution to Polish citizens, in public and against the facts, of the organizing, participation in, or responsibility or co-responsibility for crimes committed by Nazi Germany."[11] This was immediately criticized internationally as an attempt to suppress discussion of crimes that had been committed during the Holocaust by Polish citizens.[12][13]

Journalist Jerzy Haszczyński, writing in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, observed that, when the expression "Polish death camp" appeared in foreign media, it "insidiously suggested that our state and our people were responsible for German crimes"; but he was not sure whom the proposed law would affect. "Almost every use of the expression that I can recall ended in a profuse apology."[14][15]

The addition of the "ban of propaganda of Banderism" to the law (Article 2a) was spearheaded by the right-wing political movement Kukiz'15.[16] Kukiz'15 submitted this addition on July 16, 2016, however it was blocked by Civic Platform and Law and Justice parties citing "the good of Polish-Ukrainian relations".[17] Eventually, Article 2a was added to the bill on 25 January 2018 during the second reading.[18]

On 26 January 2018, after the bill's third reading, the Polish Parliament's lower chamber, the Sejm, approved the bill,[19]:Art. 1 which would apply to Poles as well as to foreigners. On 1 February 2018 the upper chamber, the Senate, passed the bill without amendment. On 6 February 2018 President Andrzej Duda signed the bill into law.[20]

Some parts of the law will come into effect 14 days after its registration in Dziennik Ustaw (the Register of Statutes), with the full law coming into effect within 3 months. The law is also being referred to the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland for review of its compliance with the Polish Constitution.[21]

The bill was interpreted across Israel's political spectrum as promoting the denial of historic facts.[22] Some Israelis went so far as to accuse the Polish government of Holocaust denial.[23][24]

In a 24 February 2017 interview, Poland’s Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Zbigniew Ziobro indicated that the law would not be enforced until it was cleared by the Constitutional Tribunal. This was quickly misinterpreted by Israeli media as meaning that the law had been "frozen".[25]

According to an opinion poll conducted in February 2018, 51% of Poles opposed the 2018 amendment.[26]

Bill summaryEdit

According to a communiqué of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an example of such misattribution is the use of expressions such as "Polish death camps". The communiqué further states:[27]

The amended act provides for a penalty, in precisely defined [circumstance]s, for the purpose of preventing intentional defamation of Poland. The final determination of a specific case will rest with the courts.

The provisions of the amended act [shall] not limit freedom of research, discussion of history, or artistic activity.

The proposed law modifies a previous law relating to the Institute of National Remembrance (namely, the Act of 18 December 1998 on the – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Dz.U. 1998 nr 155 poz. 1016)).

The following additions caused most international controversy.

  • About responsibility for Nazi crimes, two additions to Article 55:
Article 55a:

1. [Anyone] who, in public and against the facts, ascribes to the Polish Nation or to the Polish State, responsibility or co-responsibility for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich, [as] defined in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Annex to the Agreement for the prosecution and punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis, signed in London on August 8, 1945 [...], or for other offences which are crimes against peace [or] humanity or [that are] war crimes, or who otherwise grossly reduces the responsibility of the actual perpetrators of said crimes, is subject to a fine or [to] imprisonment for up to 3 years. The judgment shall be made public.

2. If a perpetrator of the act referred to in paragraph 1 has acted unintentionally, [such person] shall be subject to a fine or community sentence [(pl)].

3. No offense referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 shall have been committed if the act was performed as part of artistic or scholarly activity.

and Article 55b:[19]

Regardless of locally binding regulations at the place at which the forbidden act took place, this law applies to Polish citizens as well as to foreigners in the case that a crime occurs as described by Articles 55 and 55a.

  • About crimes of Ukrainian nationalists and Ukraininan Nazi collaborators,
the added Article 2a:[19]

The crimes of Ukrainian nationalists and members of Ukrainian organizations collaborating with the Third German Reich, as defined in the Act, are acts committed by Ukrainian nationalists in the years 1925-1950, involving the use of violence, terror or other forms of violation of human rights, against individuals or ethnic groups. One of the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists and members of Ukrainian organizations collaborating with the Third German Reich is their involvement in the extermination of the Jewish population and genocide on citizens of the Second Polish Republic in Volhynia and Eastern Lesser Poland."

The above text refers to massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia and to ethnic cleansing in Eastern Lesser Poland [pl] (Note: Eastern Galicia and Eastern Lesser Poland [pl] overlapped substantially, but were not coterminous: Eastern Galicia was a part of Eastern Lesser Poland annexed by Habsburg Austria to the Austrian Partition of Poland.[28])

The first addition caused international controversy and contributed to a worsening of Israel-Poland relations.[23]

The second addition contributed to worsening of Poland-Ukraine relations.[29] and eventually decreed as void and non-biding by Polish Constitutional Tribunal[30]

Controversy over Article 55aEdit

Article 55a was criticized for being an obstacle to free discussions of historical facts about the Holocaust in Poland. A letter signed by many prominent persons in early February, including Anne Appelbaum and the 3rd President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski, said: "Why should the victims and witnesses of the Holocaust have to watch what they say for fear of being arrested, and will the testimony of a Jewish survivor who “feared Poles” be a punishable offence?".[31]

Even before being passed, the law damaged the Israel–Poland relations. Israel's Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem reported that preserving the memory of the Holocaust takes priority over international relations. He said that "Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is a matter beyond the bilateral relationship between Israel and Poland. It is a core issue cutting to the essence of the Jewish people".[32] Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Poland of Holocaust denial.[23]

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, stated that, though he opposes the bill, Lapid's remarks were not factually correct:

His words were a gut reaction and they were filled with passion, but unfortunately he does not know the facts and his remarks were absurd.[33][34]

Yad Vashem condemned the Polish bill, saying that, while "Polish death camps" as a phrase is a historic misrepresentation, the legislation is "liable to blur the historical truths regarding the assistance the Germans received from the Polish population during the Holocaust".[35][36]

In the U.S., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed "disappointment" in the bill, adding: "Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry."[20]

Jeffrey Kopstein of the University of Toronto and Jason Wittenberg of the University of California, Berkeley, authors of the book, Intimate Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms on the Eve of the Holocaust, about anti-Jewish violence in Poland such as the Szczuczyn pogrom, opine that the purpose of the new bill "is clear: to restrict discussion of Polish complicity." They also suggest that "Poland’s current government will likely face the unpalatable prospect of enforcing an unenforceable law and denying what the mainstream scholarly community has increasingly shown to be true: Some Poles were complicit in the Holocaust.".[37]

Prof. Stanislaw Krajewski of the Warsaw University, who co-chairs the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, said that "The way the law is formulated makes it a blunt instrument for paralysing and punishing anyone you don't like", and that "the government's harsh, dismissive reaction to critics has encouraged many people to think they can now attack Jews."[38]

On 5 March 2018, in front of the Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw and Wrocław, 45 Polish citizens made public statements referring to historical events, including the Jedwabne pogrom and the Szczuczyn pogrom. The citizens claimed that they attributed responsibility for the events and alleged that their public statements constituted criminal acts under Article 55a of the amended Act of the Institute of National Memory. In the Prosecutors' offices, the citizens deposited formal written documents reporting their alleged crimes.[39][40]


In late June 2018 the article was amended, making the offending statements civil, instead of criminal, offences.[41] The prime ministers of Poland and Israel issued a joint declaration endorsing research into the Jewish Holocaust and condemning the expression, "Polish concentration camps".[42]

Controversy over Article 2aEdit

The Amendment's passage worsened Polish-Ukrainian relations, already contentious on the questions of the prewar Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the wartime and postwar Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych have been considered Ukrainian national heroes in Ukraine, and war criminals in Poland.[29][43] In Ukraine, the Amendment has been called "the Anti-Banderovite Law".[44][45]

The director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, Volodymyr Viatrovych, asserts that the Amendment's principal target is Ukrainians residing in Poland.[46]

The Polish law has been compared to Ukrainian Law 2538-1,[47] passed in 2015.[48][49]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Koposov, Nikolay (2017-10-12). Memory Laws, Memory Wars: The Politics of the Past in Europe and Russia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108329538.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Noack, Rick (2018-02-01). "Poland's Senate passes Holocaust complicity bill despite concerns from U.S., Israel". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  4. ^ [1] Ekspert: orzeczenie Trybunału Konstytucyjnego ws. nowelizacji ustawy o IPN może otworzyć drogę do dyskusji 7.01.2019
  5. ^ Remembrance, Institute of National. "Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation".
  6. ^ Republic of Poland, Dziennik ustaw z 2016 roku, poz. 1575 (Register of Statutes, 2016, item 1575)
  7. ^ Rafal Pankowski, "From the lunatic fringe to academia: Holocaust denial in Poland", in: Holocaust Denial: The David Irving Trial and International Revisionism, ed. Kate Taylor, 2000
  8. ^ Konrad Kwiet, Jürgen Matthäus, Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, ISBN 0-275-97466-9, p.162.
  9. ^ "News / Museum / Auschwitz-Birkenau". Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  10. ^ "Projekt".
  11. ^ "Draft Amendment, February 17, 2016" (PDF).
  12. ^ "Poland approves bill outlawing phrase 'Polish death camps'". The Guardian. Associated Press. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  13. ^ Noack, Rick (17 August 2016). "Obama once referred to a 'Polish death camp.' In Poland, that could soon be punishable by 3 years in prison". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  14. ^ Haszczyński, Jerzy (2 September 2016). "We didn't build the death camps". The Week. Retrieved 4 September 2016. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  15. ^ Haszczyński, Jerzy (16 August 2016). "Wątpliwa kara za 'polskie obozy'" [Questionable Punishment for 'Polish Camps']. Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  16. ^ (26 January 2018). "Sejm uchwalił ustawę o penalizacji banderyzmu".
  17. ^ "Kukiz oskarża kierownictwo PiS o uległość wobec spadkobierców Bandery", Do Rzeczy, June 11, 2017
  18. ^ Druk nr 993-A, "Additional Report...", January 26, 2018
  19. ^ a b c Parliament of Poland (2018-01-29). "Ustawa z dnia 26 stycznia 2018 r. o zmianie ustawy o Instytucie Pamięci Narodowej – Komisji Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, ustawy o grobach i cmentarzach wojennych, ustawy o muzeach oraz ustawy o odpowiedzialności podmiotów zbiorowych za czyny zabronione pod groźbą kary]" (PDF). Parliament of Poland. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-02. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  20. ^ a b Rick Noack (6 February 2018): "Polish president signs Holocaust bill, drawing rare U.S. rebuke", Washington Post
  21. ^ "Polish President signs controversial Holocaust bill into law", CNN, February 7, 2018
  22. ^ "Israel Slams 'Baseless' Holocaust Legislation in Poland".
  23. ^ a b c Selk, Avi (2018-01-27). "Analysis | It could soon be a crime to blame Poland for Nazi atrocities, and Israel is appalled". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  24. ^ "Israeli politicians, survivors blast Polish Holocaust law". Ynet and Associated Press. 1 February 2018.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Communique of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on amendment of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance".
  28. ^ (in Polish) Timothy Snyder, wieków i osiem lat; Tygodnik Powszechny – April 2002, an slightly abbreviated text of a conference presentation (Polish original). English title: "Five Centuries and Eight Years: Operation Vistula and the homogeneity of Polish society"
  29. ^ a b "Były minister obrony Ukrainy ostrzega: ponad milion Ukraińców może chwycić za kopie" "Former Ukrainian Minister of Defense Warns: over a million Ukrainians may take up the cudgels."
  30. ^ [2]
  31. ^ "Polish law denies reality of Holocaust", The Guardian, February 5, 2018
  33. ^ "Holocaust experts denounce Polish law as 'whitewash' of culpability". WIN.
  34. ^ "It's complicated: Inaccuracies plague both sides of 'Polish death camps' debate".
  35. ^ Yad Vashem: Poland Holocaust law risks ‘serious distortion’ of Polish complicity, Times of Israel, 27 January 2018
  36. ^ Israel criticises Poland over draft Holocaust legislation, Guardian, 27 January 2018
  37. ^ Kopstein, Jeffrey; Wittenberg, Jason (2018-02-02). "Yes, some Poles were Nazi collaborators. The Polish Parliament is trying to legislate that away". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2018-02-02. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  38. ^ Luxmoore, Jonathan (2018-03-14). "Polish archbishop answers Holocaust law critics". The Tablet. Retrieved 2018-05-12.
  39. ^ Chrzczonowicz, Magdalena (2018-03-06). "Obywatele testują ustawę o IPN. Oskarżyli Polaków o współudział w Holokauście i donoszą na siebie" (in Polish). OKO Press. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  40. ^ Przerwa, Dorota (2018-03-05). "Sprawdzamy ustawę o IPN. Złożyliśmy samodoniesienia do prokuratury" (in Polish). Obywatele RP. Archived from the original on 2018-03-07. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  41. ^ "Poland U-turn on Holocaust law". BBC News. 2018-06-27. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  42. ^ "The Latest: Party Head: Israel Confirms Polish View on Nazis". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  43. ^ Kozińska, oprac. Anna (1 February 2018). "Spór na linii Polska-Izrael. Do grona komentatorów dołączyła Ukraina".
  44. ^ Baran, oprac. Violetta (6 February 2018). "Ukraińskie media o oświadczeniu prezydenta Dudy: słowo Ukraina nawet nie padło".
  45. ^ "Польські депутати вночі прийняли закон про заборону 'бандерівської ідеології' " [Tonight Polish Parliamentaries Passed the Law on the Ban of the "Banderovite Ideology"] ZN.UA, September 1, 2018,
  46. ^ "Закон про "бандеризм" спрямований проти українців у Польщі - В'ятрович".
  47. ^ "Офіційний портал Верховної Ради України". Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  48. ^ "Poland isn't the only country trying to police what can be said about the Holocaust". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  49. ^ "Laws 2558 and 2538-1: On Critical Inquiry, the Holocaust, and Academic Freedom in Ukraine". Політична Критика. Retrieved 2018-02-10.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit