USA condemns Polish president's decision to sign Holocaust bill into law

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The United States is "disappointed" that Poland's president has signed legislation that would impose criminal penalties for attributing Nazi crimes to the Polish state, said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday.

A man plays a violin during a counter demonstration against Polish nationalists and supporters of controversial Holocaust bill in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday.

Poland's authorities have described it as an attempt to protect the country's reputation from what it believes is confusion about who bears responsibility for Auschwitz and other death camps Nazi Germany set up in occupied Poland. It said it hopes Duda's decision to ask the constitutional court to evaluate the bill will allow both sides to "agree on changes and corrections".

"We are urging President of the Republic of Poland [Andrzej Duda] to exercise his constitutional powers and, together with the Sejm and Senate of the Republic of Poland, to return balance, rationality and well-wishing to Ukrainian-Polish relations", the statement says.

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"One can not change history, and the Holocaust can not be denied", Netanyahu said in a statement on January 27.

France has joined the United States and Israel in its criticism, as the USA showed "disappointment" against the decision while Israel raised fears over the possibility of hiding the truth about some Poles' participation in the crimes. Israel, however, has expressed concern that the legislation could open the door to prosecuting Holocaust survivors for their testimony should it concern the involvement of individual Poles for allegedly killing or giving up Jews to the Germans.

It excludes those who speak "within the framework of artistic or scientific activity".

Former US President Barack Obama stirred controversy in 2012 when he used the phrase while granting a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to a Polish World War II resistance fighter, and later apologized for not using the term "Nazi death camp".

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Polish Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki later referred to Israeli reactions as "proof of how necessary this bill is". I accepted an invitation to a dialogue based on truth. Historians have pointed to incidents, including a 1941 atrocity in the town of Jedwabne, in which Poles rounded up and killed their Jewish neighbors.

"The bill, as presently worded, represents the worst kind of historical revisionism, is an assault and an insult to the memory of those murdered during the holocaust and is a direct attack on free speech and freedom of opinion".

Many conservative lawmakers and commentators are now accusing Israelis and American Jews of using the issue as a pretext for getting money from Poland for prewar Jewish property seized in the communist era.

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