Should the term "Polish concentration camp" be banned?

Poland's government wants to introduce a law that would leave people who use the term "Polish concentration camp" in connection with Auschwitz and other concentration camps facing up to three years behind bars. It fears that this choice of words implies that Poland played a role in operating the German concentration camps. Some commentators approve of Warsaw's intentions. Others point to the need for the Poles to confront their historical responsibility.

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Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Against malicious distortions of history

The idea behind the Polish government's draft law is right, columnist Jerzy Haszczyński writes in Rzeczpospolita:

“I appreciate the fact that the government is trying to protect Poland's good name. The term 'Polish concentration camp' that appears in foreign media is a distortion of history and maliciously suggests that our state and population were responsible for the German crimes. And if legal steps are taken against such distortions it shows that the topic is being given highest priority. Nevertheless I have my reservations. The main one pertains to the envisaged punishment of up to three years in prison. ... I'm not sure who's being targeted here. Because almost all the cases I can remember in which the term was used ended with an apology.”

Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

Don't punish the search for truth

Poland's annoyance over the use of the term "Polish concentration camp" is understandable but the ban could hinder the country's confrontation with its own past, Mladá fronta dnes warns:

“It's about the question of to what extent Polish anti-Semitism contributed to so few Polish Jews surviving the war or being helped by Poles. … Naturally this does nothing to diminish the responsibility of the Nazis. But the Poles must confront unpleasant questions and answer them in their own interests. The same goes for the Czech Republic - whether it's the handing over of German-Jewish emigrants to the Nazis after 1938, the establishment of a concentration camp for Roma in Lety in the south Bohemian region or the post-war fate of Aryanized Jewish property. The search for answers should not be punishable by law. Either in Poland or in the Czech Republic.”