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Defiant Poland rolls out #GermanDeathCamps campaign despite Holocaust law controversy

Videos posted to the social media pages of the Polish Prime Minister's Office include testimonies that concentration camps were "German from start to finish."

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Defiant Poland rolls out #GermanDeathCamps campaign despite Holocaust law controversy

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Poland has launched a social media campaign to support its controversial new Holocaust law, which makes it illegal to accuse the country of complicity in Nazi crimes committed during World War II.

Videos posted to the YouTube and social media channels of the Polish Prime Minister's Office in recent days promote the hashtag #GermanDeathCamps.

One titled “Today, we are still on the side of truth” and uploaded on Thursday was viewed more than 12 million times at time of writing.

“Germany put Poland through hell on Earth,” says the video, created by the Polish National Foundation. “Jews and Poles suffered its terrors together.”

“We did much to save the Jews as a state, as citizens, as friends,” it adds.

Another video, which has received more than two million views, shows the testimony of 94-year-old Alina Dabrowska, who says she was a prisoner of several concentration camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau.

“The camps were German from start to finish,” she says.

A third uploaded by the prime minister’s office shows another concentration camp prisoner and former soldier of the Polish Home Army telling viewers: “Those camps were German camps.”

Kancelaria Premiera/YouTube

Adverts promoting the #GermanDeathCamps campaign are being rolled out on various websites.

A Twitter account managed by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also shared a link to a website titled “GermanDeathCamps.info”, which re-directs readers to the website of Poland's state-owned  Polskie Radio.

It includes further testimony and seeks to illustrate the suffering of both Polish and Jewish people during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland.

The office of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has said the new law, which sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term as punishment, “protects Polish interests... our dignity, the historical truth... so that we are not slandered as a state and as a nation."

'Protect freedoms'

The legislation has drawn criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups, who say it threatens freedom of speech.

The "enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement last week.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel has said Polish lawmakers were justified in the view that the term “Polish death camps” was misrepresentative, but urged them to protect freedoms to research and discuss the Holocaust in the country.

“Restrictions on statements by scholars and others regarding the Polish people’s direct or indirect complicity with the crimes committed on their land during the Holocaust are a serious distortion,” they said in January.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also described the law as “baseless.”

“One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” he said.

Poland has long objected to the use of phrases like "Polish death camps", which it says implies shared responsibility for concentration camps like Auschwitz.

The camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany after it invaded Poland in 1939.