A novel attack on press freedom and perhaps the imprecise use of adjectives has been made by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party.
The lower house of the Polish parliament has approved legislation that would be laughable if it was not about genocide. The bill proposes fines and jail terms of up to three years for writers who employ phrases such as ‘Polish death camps’ when referring to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Chelmno, Majdanek, or any of the other 450 extermination and slave labour camps established and run by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.
The thinking — let’s be generous in the use of that term — behind it is that some people might get the idea that the killing grounds were the work of the Poles or, at least, that they were accomplices in genocide. While no country in Nazi-occupied Europe was without its quislings, can anyone now be in any doubt about the provenance of these dark places? The clues are on the tin: ‘Arbeit macht frei’ isn’t Polish. But what’s the Polish for linguistic correctness gone mad?