WARSAW, Poland — Poland's senate leader has appealed to Poles living abroad to report to the authorities any statements deemed to hurt "Poland's good name" — part of a wider campaign by the government to defend the country against what it calls historical untruth and slander.
The letter, posted recently on the Senate's website and reported by German media Thursday, is linked to a controversial new law that penalizes publicly and falsely attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish nation. Artistic and research work is exempted and the government insists the law is not intended to block historical research, but critics say its wording is unclear.
Israel has protested the law, adopted this month, saying it could limit discussion about the Holocaust and whitewash the role some Poles played during Germany's brutal occupation of Poland from 1939 to 1945. The United States has also expressed "disappointment" over the law.
Observers say the campaign, which includes a website and ads on YouTube, is a means for the ruling Law and Justice party to consolidate its power by rallying voters around the idea that Poland needs to be defended against a hostile outside world.
In his letter sent last week to Polish organizations worldwide, Senate Speaker Stanislaw Karczewski appealed to their members to "document and react" to signs of anti-Polish sentiment and "statements and opinions that hurt (Poland's good name)" and to report them to Polish diplomatic missions. He also appealed to them to record first-hand testimony of World War II crimes from Polish and Jewish witnesses and survivors.
The letter acknowledges that individual Poles committed shameful deeds during the war, but says they were not typical of the entire nation.
In Germany, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party called the letter "regrettable."Comment on this story
"This partisan tactic consists in spreading the feeling in Poland that they're being treated unjustly abroad," Norbert Roettgen told the Thursday issue of the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview for Germany's Die Welt daily also printed by the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper that Poland's point of view should be made known.
He said the debate around the law made him aware of the need for joint research that would reveal how many Poles committed crimes against Jews but would also put facts in their "terrible" wartime context.
Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed.