Even though the law has not yet been codified, a recent piece of legislation in the Polish Sejm (Senate) has already caused an international incident.

The bill, which passed on a vote of 57 to 23 in the Senate's lower house, would make it a crime to either label World War II-era camps as "Polish" or to publicly accuse the Polish population of being complicit in the Holocaust. Those convicted of breaking this law could face a maximum of three years in jail.

President Andrej Duda has yet to sign the bill but is expected to very soon.

Angering allies

The law has earned quick condemnation from the United States and Israel. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the Sejm to drop the bill, BBC News reported.

"I strongly opposed it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied," Mr. Netanyahu said in a prepared statement.

Heather Nauert, the spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said that her country is worried that the new law might "undermine free speech and academic discourse."

While recognizing that Poland has a right to correct "inaccurate, misleading, and hurtful" phrases like "Polish Death Camps," Nauert said in a statement that the United States would like to see Warsaw "reevaluate" the bill.

Besides Nauert, members of an anti-Semitism committee in the United States Congress called on President Duda to veto the legislation.

"We are deeply concerned that this legislation could have a chilling effect on dialogue, scholarship, and accountability in Poland about the Holocaust, should this legislation become law," the bipartisan committee was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Standing firm

President Duda responded to international criticism by saying in a recent television interview that his country has a right to "defend historical truth."

For Mr. Duda and his conservative Law and Justice Party, phrases like "Polish death camps" mislead people into thinking that Poland and a majority of Polish citizens were active collaborators with the occupying forces of Nazi Germany.

World War Ii began in Europe on September 1, 1939, when the German Army invaded Poland along with several of its allies (including the Soviet Red Army in the east). Under Nazi occupation, the General Government, which was Berlin's official name for German-controlled Poland, was subjected to direct military rule. All told, one-fifth of the entire Polish population died during World War II, including approximately three million of the country's Jews.

Many of these Holocaust survivors agree with President Duda and his disdain for the term "Polish death camps." However, some members of Poland's Jewish community expressed concern about using prison sentences to clampdown on public or written expressions.

A terrible history

Poland was home to the majority of the Nazi camp facilities during the war. All told, some 457 camps were located on Polish territory. The most infamous of these camps, including the death camps Treblinka, Chelmno, and Auschwitz-Birkenau, witnessed the mass slaughter of millions of Slavs, Jews, Romani, and other so-called "undesirables."

Many historians have argued since 1945 that the Nazis found willing co-conspirators in Eastern Europe. Despite official Nazi rhetoric that called Poles and other Slavic peoples "sub-human," some Polish citizens did work as camp guards and soldiers for the Nazi regime.

The view that Polish citizens eagerly worked alongside the Nazis was emphatically reiterated by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Shamir, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, once said that "every Pole sucked anti-Semitism with his mother's milk," according to JTA Org. When given the chance to retract the statement, Shamir doubled down.

Concerning Prime Minister Netanyahu's condemnation of the bill, Poland's Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki said that it was simply "proof [of] how necessary this bill is."