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Controversial Holocaust bill is passed in Poland

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Controversial Holocaust bill is passed in Poland

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The Polish senate has approved a law that makes it illegal to suggest that Poland played any part in the Nazi Holocaust, which took place on its soil during World War Two.

The law would make the term "Polish death camps" punishable by up to three years in jail. The Auschwitz and Treblinka concentration camps were built on Polish soil.

The bill has already caused a rift with Israel. On Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Poland of attempting to change history.

In a statement he said: "I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied."

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, called the legislation "problematic".

"This law is liable to blur historical truths due to limitations it places on expressions regarding the complicity of segments of the Polish population in crimes against Jews committed by its own people, either directly or indirectly, on Polish soil during the Holocaust," the center said in a statement. 

While the Yad Vashem said the term "Polish death camps" is "erroneous", it emphasised that historical misrepresentations and statements like that should not be criminalised, adding the law "jeopardizes the free and open discussion of the part of the Polish people in the persecution of the Jews at the time."

Poland's deputy justice minister said: "Talking about the past and analysing this past, even the darkest, shameful part of the Polish past is not threatened in any way"

The role of Poland in the atrocities has always been a tough topic for the country, which after being invaded by Nazi Germany saw 90% of its Jewish population killed.

The move to absolve Poles and the Polish state of that responsibility now has momentum, with the bill passing in parliament with 57 votes to 23.