The Polish Parliament’s upper house approved Thursday a controversial bill that aimed, according to its backers, “to protect Poland’s reputation and ensure historians recognize that Poles as well as Jews perished under the Nazis.” Widely interpreted as criminalizing any mention that some Poles committed crimes during the Holocaust, the law was swiftly condemned by a wide range of Holocaust commemoration bodies, survivors and historians. The United States asked Poland to rethink the legislation. Israel countered with a bill that criminalizes denying or minimizing the role of Nazi collaborators.
But few in the Western media read Polish, and the law’s actual scope is actually broader than has been reported. Behind it lies a long-standing government policy of “not leaving history to the historians” — and promoting a narrative of Polish martyrdom.
Here’s what you need to know.