Controversial Polish 'Holocaust law' comes into effect

A Polish law that makes it a crime to accuse the Polish nation of crimes that were committed by Nazi Germany has taken effect.

The law is seen by some as part of a larger effort by the nationalist authorities to manipulate history so that the country is not associated with war crimes.

Poland is at the same time trying to defuse its biggest standoff with Israel in at least three decades over the law, which has drawn warnings from the U.S. and other allies that it is parlously close to denying the crimes of the Holocaust.

Poland has insisted that it would never 'whitewash' its history and the fact that some Poles did commit 'ignoble acts' during World War Two

Poland has insisted that it would never 'whitewash' its history and the fact that some Poles did commit 'ignoble acts' during World War Two

Holocaust survivors have also expressed reservations about the new law

Holocaust survivors have also expressed reservations about the new law

This Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 file photo, shows the Memorial on the grounds of the former German Nazi Death Camp Treblinka, near the village of Treblinka, north-east Poland 

This Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 file photo, shows the Memorial on the grounds of the former German Nazi Death Camp Treblinka, near the village of Treblinka, north-east Poland 

For years Polish officials have struggled to fight phrases like 'Polish death camps' that are routinely used abroad to describe death camps that were built and operated by Nazi Germany on occupied Polish territory during World War Two. 

Some Poles fear that as memories of the war grow more distant, new generations will mistakenly come to believe that Poles were the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

But  Holocaust survivors and some officials fear its true aim is to repress research on Poles who killed Jews during World War II.

Polish officials however have insisted that the law, which calls for prison sentences of up to three years, will only punish those who publicly and 'against the facts' accuse the Polish nation as a whole for crimes committed by the Germans.

As the law took effect Thursday, Polish and Israeli representatives were in Jerusalem holding a first working meeting toward resolving a standoff over the law.

'I can't imagine two nations that are both victims of the war not being able to find common ground,' government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska told Bloomberg. 

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