President meets Righteous Among Nations
President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday hosted a group of Holocaust survivors and Righteous Among the Nations, after earlier deciding to approve the new anti-defamation bill.
Earlier on Tuesday, the head of state announced he would approve the bill, which makes it a crime to falsely accuse Poland of complicity in crimes, such as the Holocaust.
He added he would then send the legislation to the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) for assessment as to whether it places undue restrictions on freedom of speech.
In the afternoon, Andrzej Duda hosted a meeting at the Presidential Palace, held in remembrance of Poles who saved Jews during World War II and of Holocaust survivors.
Some 50 guests came to the palace, including representatives of Poland's Jewish community and the Righteous Among the Nations. This honorary title and medal is awarded to non-Jews who saved Jewish people from the Holocaust.
In his speech to the participants, the head of state referred to his earlier decision about the anti-defamation bill, saying that "I have made it in full awareness and with an acute sense of the big problem posed by every decision which could be made about this bill."
The President said that as head of state, he had to act with full responsibility for Polish, human and international affairs, and so he chose "the only decision which I considered sensible."
Hopefully, Andrzej Duda added, the TK would give a measured assessment of the new legislation, "perhaps suggesting amendments, which I cannot rule out as some provisions may indeed present doubts."
In the head of state's view, the legislation is needed for several reasons, "not really to punish anybody, which may be difficult to achieve" but rather as "a signal that the Polish state recognises the problem (of false accusations against Poland - PAP) and that it is hurting us."
"All the allegations, including the powerful ones accusing Poles of systemic involvement in the Holocaust," Duda said, "we all know nothing of the sort happened."
"If there was anything systemic and organised in relation to the Holocaust," he added, "it was the systemic opposition to it, by Zegota (an agency of the Polish Underground State tasked with helping save Jews - PAP), by the Polish Underground State, and its representatives Jan Karski and Captain Witold Pilecki, and also in the fact that giving Jews away was punishable by death."
The president said that in view of the Holocaust, Poland faces the difficult task of "making the average citizen of Israel, or of the US, a Jew, perceive Poland as Polin again, as that place where you can rest and which at least has connotations of kindness."
When it comes to shared Polish-Jewish memory, the head of state added, may "one side receive the grace of forgiveness, and may the other be able to view reality objectively."
"I very much wish for this to happen," the President concluded. (PAP)