I’ve made a lot of mention of the Ukraine’s Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and Neonazi predilections, on this blog, and while many former Eastern Bloc nations might respond with the equivalent of, “Hold my beer,” it appears that Poland and its judicial system has gone that extra contemptible mile, declaring historians to be criminals, and requiring a formal apology by them for pointing out the Nazi
On Tuesday, a Polish court found Professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski, two of the most renowned historians of the Holocaust in Poland, guilty of defamation and spreading “inaccurate information.” The two historians had been sued by the niece of Edward Malinowski, the mayor of a Polish town during World War II, for a passage that appears in their 1,700 page Night Without End about the genocide of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. In the 2018 volume, testimonies are quoted which suggest that Malinowski was implicated in the local massacre of Jews by German soldiers. Engelking and Grabowski were ordered to write an apology to the niece for allegedly defaming her uncle and “providing inaccurate information.”
The trial represents a new milestone in the assaults on historical truth and democratic rights by the Polish state and the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). In addition to the trial against Engelking and Grabowski, a journalist, Katarzyna Markusz, is threatened with a three-year prison sentence for “defaming the Polish nation,” because of a passage she wrote on Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
These actions are part of a state-orchestrated campaign, aimed at promoting anti-Semitism and far-right forces. In 2018, the Polish government passed a law criminalizing any mention of Polish collaboration in the Holocaust. Since then, historians have faced increasing pressure, including threats of lawsuits, along with hate mail and death threats from far-right forces which feel so emboldened that they often do not even hide their names anymore. While the lawsuit against Engelking and Grabowski was brought by Filomena Leszczyńska, it was heavily backed and driven by the Polish League against Defamation, a far-right outfit that is directly funded by the state. For many years, the League has been harassing Holocaust historians with threats of lawsuits.
The two-volume Night Without End (2018), which they edited together and which formed the basis of the trial, provides an extensive analysis of the life and fate of 140,000 Polish Jews in the countryside in the Nazi-occupied General Government of Poland. The work highlights, in particular, the role played by the Polish police (“Blue police”), a force that the Polish right has long sought to whitewash.
Poland has criminalized publishing the accounts of Holocaust survivors.
The people of Poland, or the Ukraine, or Germany, or the Baltic States are not responsible for the horrible things that some of their ancestors when the enthusiastically supported Hitler’s “Final Solution.
However, they are responsible for promulgating lies and antisemitism, as well as aggressively condoning, to the point of erecting statues, of the worst of the collaborators criminals who did this.
What they are doing NOW is a stain on their national honor, and makes genocide more likely in the future.