Although the decision to remove criminal penalties from the Polish Holocaust law was the result of negotiations between Poland and Israel, the United States played a crucial role in getting Poland to make the change, according to media reports on Thursday.
In March, Poland’s Onet news site reported that Washington had told Warsaw that senior officials would not be received by President Donald Trump if the Holocaust law were not changed. There was also said to be a threat to suspend funding for joint U.S.-Poland military activities.
Staff from the US Embassy in Warsaw and Polish officials denied the story.
However, during Polish President Andrzej Duda’s five-day visit to the U.S. in May, President Trump did not meet with him, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Thursday.
A source close to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed the claim that the Americans had pressured Poland into changing the law, according to JTA.
“The Polish government ideologically sees eye to eye with the Trump Administration and with Israel,” the source was quoted as saying. “The only hurdle was this law, and eventually all sides saw it just had to go already.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. welcomed the news.
“This action underscores Poland’s commitment to open debate, freedom of speech and academic inquiry,” the State Department said in a statement. “The Holocaust and the crimes of the Nazis are an unspeakable tragedy in the history of Poland and mankind.
“We agree that phrases attributing responsibility to the Polish state for crimes committed by the Nazis on occupied Polish territory, such as ‘Polish death camps,’ are inaccurate and hurtful. Such misrepresentations are best confronted through free and open dialogue.”
In Poland, the influential leader of Poland’s ruling party said that the joint Israeli-Polish declaration announcing the change to the law ended the dispute with Israel that had caused a diplomatic rift, The Associated Press reported.
Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told the Niezalezna news portal that the goal of the declaration by Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu was to “show to the world and to our nations that we have reached an agreement on this.”
Included in the joint statement was an acknowledgment of the heroic resistance of many Poles to the Nazi oppression.
Poland’s prime minister said that despite its reversal, the law has made the world more aware of the heroism of Poles during World War II and of the prejudice they face.