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Poland’s rightwing government on Tuesday said it would seek fines or jail terms of up to three years against anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish.
A legislative amendment to approve the proposal has to be approved by parliament and signed by the president, but a green light is expected from both.
“The new provisions penalise these insulting terms, which undermine Poland’s reputation,” a government statement said.
Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens, including three million Jews in the Holocaust.
Polish officials routinely request corrections when global media or politicians describe as “Polish” former death camps like Auschwitz set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.
Even if used as a geographical indicator, Warsaw says the term can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust, whereas it was one of the greatest victims of the slaughter.
“Poles’ blood boils when they read, including in the German media, that there were ‘Polish death camps’, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro told reporters on Tuesday.
US President Barack Obama used the term in 2012 and later expressed regret.
A Polish citizen sued the German newspaper Die Welt for referring in 2008 to the Majdanek concentration camp as “Polish”, but a Warsaw court dismissed the case last year.
Under the new initiative, a “public attribution to Poland, in violation of the facts, of bearing joint responsibility” for Nazi Germany’s crimes could result in jail time, as well as fines.