Senator Stern Asks Polish Government to Reconsider New Holocaust Speech Law

Monday, April 2, 2018

APRIL 2, 2018 
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Senator Stern Asks Polish Government to Reconsider New Holocaust Speech Law

Concerns raised on behalf of California Jewish Caucus at recent 75th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising event in Malibu

MALIBU — Speaking at an event at City Hall commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Senator Henry Stern asked Consul Ignacy Żarski of the Polish Republic that his government reconsider the Act of 26 January 2018 amending the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance. 

The amendments institute criminal penalties up to 3 years in prison for any individual who “attributes to the Polish Nation or to the Polish State responsibility or co-responsibility for the Nazi crimes committed by the German Third Reich.”

“I think telling the truth about history matters,” Senator Stern said, going on to remark on the difficulty and importance of acknowledging the history of genocide and slavery in both Europe and America. “Especially in the areas of remembrance and memory, we have to focus on no fear in speech, and no fear in dialogue.”

Speaking at the same event, Carolyn Ben Natan of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles said of the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, “We all need to remember them, regardless of our faith, our nationality or our background. We remember them because it’s up to us to tell their story. It’s up to us to never forget, and it’s up to us to make sure the world never forgets.”

While thousands of heroic Poles, honored by Yad Vashem among The Righteous of the Nations, resisted Nazi tyranny and protected Jews, often at the cost of their own lives, there were also many who assisted the occupying forces and participated in war crimes. The recent change in Polish law could make discussion of the latter, well-documented events a criminal offense.

Assembly Joint Resolution Number 35, authored by California Jewish Legislative Caucus Chair Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin), urges Polish lawmakers to reverse or revise the amendments. Though the amendments exempt research and the arts from the law, Jewish Caucus leaders like Levine and Stern worry that blurred distinctions between these and other forms of expression will lead to the suppression of legitimate inquiry.

“The new legislation in Poland,” the resolution reads, “may limit the ability to convey the full story of what transpired during the Holocaust.” The resolution also recognizes the hurtful and inaccurate nature of statements that associate the Polish government or the nation as a whole with the actions of Nazi Germany within the country’s borders.

“We commend Senator Stern, Assemblymember Levine, and the California Jewish Caucus' call for truth and justice for the victims of the Holocaust,” said Roslyn Warren, Acting Director of the Los Angeles Regional Office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). “As longtime advocates of Poland's relationship with the global Jewish community, the United States, and Israel, we will work toward mending the ties strained by the passage of this bill.” 

The change in Polish law is currently under review at the Constitutional Tribunal, the republic’s high court. However, the Polish constitution contains no restriction comparable to the United States’ First Amendment.​


Henry Stern is Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, and the first millennial elected to the Senate. Senator Stern also serves on Energy, Utilities and Communications, Environmental Quality, Judiciary, and Natural Resources and Water. He represents nearly 1 million residents of the 27th District living in east Ventura County and northwest Los Angeles County.