Act on the Institute of National Remembrance
This article needs to be updated.November 2018)(
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.
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. The amendment caused an international controversy. Article 2 a was appealed by Polish President Andrzej Duda and found to be unconstitutional by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, which decreed it null and void.
The Institute of National Remembrance was established by a Sejm Act of 18 December 1998.
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"; and is therefore sometimes restrictively referred to as the law against Holocaust denial.
The 2007 amendment dealt with lustrations conducted in Poland.
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. Critics fear that Article 55a poses an obstacle to free discussion of historical facts about the Holocaust in Poland.
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. 
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." This was immediately criticized internationally as an attempt to suppress discussion of crimes that had been committed during the Holocaust by Polish citizens.
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."
The addition of the "ban of propaganda of Banderism" to the law (Article 2a) was spearheaded by the right-wing political movement Kukiz'15. 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". Eventually, Article 2a was added to the bill on 25 January 2018 during the second reading.
On 26 January 2018, after the bill's third reading, the Polish Parliament's lower chamber, the Sejm, approved the bill,: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.
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.
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".
According to an opinion poll conducted in February 2018, 51% of Poles opposed the 2018 amendment.
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 Institute of National Remembrance – 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.
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:
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:
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 (Note: Eastern Galicia and Eastern Lesser Poland 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.)
Controversy over Article 55aEdit
Article 55a was criticized by Israeli and Jewish outlets for allegedly 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 journalist Anne Applebaum 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?".
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". Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Poland of Holocaust denial.
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".
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."
Prof. Stanisław Krajewski of the University of Warsaw, 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."
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.
In late June 2018 the article was amended, making the offending statements civil, instead of criminal, offences. The prime ministers of Poland and Israel issued a joint declaration endorsing research into the Jewish Holocaust and condemning the expression, "Polish concentration camps".
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. In Ukraine, the Amendment has been called "the Anti-Banderovite Law".
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