California Assembly Condemns Poland’s Holocaust Law

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

(Sacramento, CA) – Responding to a disturbing spike in hate rhetoric and anti-Semitism, the State Assembly voted overwhelmingly with unanimous bipartisan support to demonstrate its commitment to Holocaust education Tuesday and called on Congress to urge Poland to abandon a gag rule that seems to encourage revisionist history.

More than 60 Assembly members joined Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-Marin County, as co-authors to Assembly Joint Resolution 35. The resolution establishes formal opposition to a recently adopted Polish law that threatens a three-year prison sentence to those who suggest Polish complicity in Nazi crimes against humanity during World War II.

Auschwitz, perhaps the most notorious and widely known of the death camps, was in Poland. A recent survey of young Americans found that most 2 out of 3 had never heard of it.

“There is no denying that 90% of Poland’s Jewish population and millions of other innocent Poles were murdered during the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis. Yet, new generations of young people don’t understand this history,” said Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-Marin County. He is chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and lead author on AJR 35. “Poland’s law limiting speech about the Holocaust is a gross misjudgment that dooms us to repeat the horrors of the past.”

That level of historical ignorance seems to parallel a rise in hate. Instances of anti-Semitism rose 57 percent from 2016 to 2017 in the United States, the largest single-year jump on record, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

That hate has been on vivid display in recent years, notably in Charlottesville, VA, in August of 2017, where white supremacists chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” In France, which also has experienced a wave of anti-Semitism, Parisians were horrified in March when Mireille Knoll, an 85 year-old Holocaust survivor was brutally murdered in her apartment in an apparent anti-Semitic attack.

This troubling surge has not gone unnoticed by Congress. A group of United States Senators penned a letter on May 16, 2018, urging the President to appoint a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the U.S. Department of State – a position, they noted, that has remained vacant for over 15 months. After the letter, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill with wide Jewish organizational backing that would not only require the President to nominate someone for the position within 90 days of its passage, but would also elevate the position to ambassador level. Another bill, named after Elie Wiesel, would make combating genocide a U.S. policy. Both were approved on May 17 with bipartisan support.

The resolution was adopted by the Assembly on Tuesday afternoon and will now move to the Senate.