Lack of understanding between US, Poland benefits opponents: ambassador
PR dla Zagranicy
Phrases such as "Polish death camps" are inaccurate and hurtful, but they should be combated in ways that protect values such as freedom of speech, the US ambassador to Poland has said.
US Ambassador Paul Jones and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Photo: KPRM
Paul Jones added that a lack of understanding between allies Warsaw and Washington benefits only their opponents.
Despite pressure from the United States and Israel, Polish President Andrzej Duda recently signed into force a contested law which could mean a jail term for anyone who accuses Poland of being complicit in Nazi German crimes.
The new rules have sparked tensions between Poland and Israel and prompted concern in Washington.
Jones said that the United States “perfectly understands that Poland seeks to defend its good name. We agree that phrases such as 'Polish death camps' are inaccurate and hurtful.
“However, we need to combat them in ways that protect basic values. And for Americans, the most fundamental value is the one enshrined in our Constitution’s First Amendment, protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
"In America, we have learned that the best antidote to painful and inaccurate words is free speech and education.”
Jones added: “A lack of understanding between us - the closest of allies and partners - benefits only our opponents.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently reacted to Duda signing into force the new law by saying that the United States was “disappointed.” Tillerson said that the law “adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry.”
The US State Department earlier raised concerns about the repercussions the law “could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships” – including with its ally the United States and Israel.
The new Polish law says academic researchers and artists are exempt from penalties.
In Poland, the new rules are seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps,” which many say implies the country's involvement in the Holocaust.
Poland has long fought the use of such phrases, which have often appeared in foreign media in relation to Nazi German-run extermination camps located in occupied Polish territory during World War II.
But commentators have said that Israel is concerned that the new law could mean penalties for anyone who criticises individual Poles' role in the Holocaust.
Public broadcaster Polish Radio has launched a new website, GermanDeathCamps.info, aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust.