Polish PM cites shared Nazi horrors to ease speech law anger

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland. (AFP)
Updated 02 February 2018

Polish PM cites shared Nazi horrors to ease speech law anger

WARSAW, Poland: Poland’s prime minister sought to ease concerns Thursday over a law criminalizing some public comments about the Holocaust by invoking the horror both Poles and Jews experienced at the hands of Nazi Germany, saying it bound their countries in a joint pursuit of the truth.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki gave a televised address hours after Poland’s Senate passed the legislation, which already had strained the country’s relations with Israel and the United States.
Striking a conciliatory note, Morawiecki said that telling the truth about what happened in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Holocaust is a task Poland and Israel share.
Poland will “never curb the freedom of the Holocaust debate,” he said. “We owe that to all those who experienced it.”
The bill proposed by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party calls for fines and prison sentences of up to three years for purposely trying to attribute the crimes Nazi Germany carried out during the nearly six-year occupation to the Polish nation as a whole.
The lower house of Poland’s parliament approved the legislation last week. To become law, it still requires approval from President Andrzej Duda, who has said he supports it.
While the bill exempts artistic and scholarly work, it has raised concerns that the Polish state itself will decide what the facts of its wartime history are and which statements it finds objectionable enough to prosecute. Israeli officials have expressed outrage, while the United States asked Polish lawmakers to reconsider.
Polish Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki suggested that Israel had been consulted on the bill and voiced no objections. Many in Israel have characterized the proposed law as an attempt to whitewash the role some Poles played in the killing of Jews during World War II.
Israel “opposes categorically” the vote by Poland’s senators, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
“Israel views with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth,” the ministry said in a statement. “No law will change the facts.”
A group of Israeli lawmakers introduced a bill on Thursday that would toughen Israel’s Holocaust denial regulations to make “denying or minimizing the involvement of the Nazi helpers and collaborators” a crime.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish rights group headquartered in Los Angeles, accused Poland’s conservative government of trying to suppress the “widespread participation of individual Poles in the persecution and murder of Jews during the Holocaust.”
Poland’s government has argued that it is fighting against the use of phrases like “Polish death camps” to refer to the camps Nazi Germany operated on Polish soil and where Poles were killed along with Jews and others.
Poland was among the countries hardest-hit by Nazi Germany, losing some six million citizens, half of them Jews.
The government also has expressed hope that adoption of the law will not affect Poland’s strategic partnership with the United States.
Before the Senate’s vote, the US asked Poland to rethink the proposed legislation saying it could “undermine free speech and academic discourse” and affect Poland’s ties with the US and Israel.
The prime ministers of Israel and Poland agreed on Sunday to try to resolve the argument by establishing working groups to discuss the Holocaust history issue. It remains unclear what effect the discussions might have on the bill being enacted in its current form.
Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, issued a statement saying it was “most unfortunate” that Poland was proceeding with a law “liable to blur historical truths.”


Truck drives into US crowd protesting George Floyd killing, underscoring volatile situation

Updated 18 min 4 sec ago

Truck drives into US crowd protesting George Floyd killing, underscoring volatile situation

  • Protesters managed to stop the truck and beat up the driver, who was later arrested by police
  • A New York City Police car earlier drove into a crowd of protesters who were pelting it with objects

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota: A tanker truck drove through thousands of people marching on a Minneapolis highway to protest the death of George Floyd on Sunday before protesters dragged the driver from the cab and beat him, according to a Reuters witness and authorities.
It did not appear any of the marchers were injured when the truck raced toward them on I-35, blowing its horn, sending protesters scattering before coming to a stop, according to the witness and a tweet by the Minnesota Department of Public Security (MNDPS).
Police arrived soon after and arrested the truck driver, who was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, MNDPS said.
Video of the incident shows protesters swarming the vehicle before it comes to a stop.

Protesters hand over to police the driver of a tanker truck after he drove into a crowd marching on 35W north bound highway in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 31, 2020. (REUTERS/Eric Miller)

“The incident just underscores the volatile situation we have out there,” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz told a news conference, adding he did not know the motives of the driver.
It marked the second incident in as many days of a vehicle driving at people protesting Floyd’s death after a New York City Police car was captured on video on Saturday driving into a crowd of protesters who were pelting it with objects.
“Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators,” MNDPS tweeted.
Video showed the truck had a logo on its side for “Kenan Advantage Group,” an Ohio-based transportation company.
The company said in a statement that it was informed of an incident involving one of its independent contractors in Minneapolis and it would be cooperating with investigating authorities.
MNDPS did not identify the driver but said the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were investigating the incident as a criminal matter.