‘Propaganda’? Holocaust historian sues group that took aim at his ‘anti-Poland’ research
A historian is dragging a Polish group to court, demanding that its members donate books about the Holocaust to local schools. The suit comes after the academic was accused of spreading lies about Poland’s role in Nazi crimes.
Professor Jan Grabowski, from the University of Ottawa, is suing the Polish League Against Defamation, claiming that the group attempted to “discredit him in the eyes of the scientific community.” The libel suit was filed at the District Court in Warsaw on Thursday.
The professor’s Holocaust research apparently ruffled some Polish feathers. The Polish League Against Defamation condemned Grabowski’s Holocaust research as “propaganda constructions” which create a “slanderous and unfavorable attitude towards Poland and Poles.” The group’s stated mission is to “straighten out false information about Polish history.”
In his suit, Grabowski demands that the 134 individuals who signed the group’s incendiary statement purchase and donate books, about the country’s role in the Holocaust, to Polish high schools.
Aside from his teaching post in Canada, Grabowski is the co-founder of the Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw. His book “Judenjagd. Hunting for Jews” received the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research.
The libel suit comes amid a string of controversial statements and legislation aimed at downplaying Poland’s alleged role in the Holocaust.
In February, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda approved legislation which outlaws blaming Poles for the Holocaust committed on Polish territory by Nazi Germany. Under the legislation’s original wording, accusing the Poles of complicity in Nazi crimes or using the term “Polish death camps” was punishable by up to three years in prison. However, the law was later watered down, with offenders now only subject to civil suits and financial penalties.
Warsaw has acknowledged that individual Poles did collaborate in crimes against their Jewish neighbors, but insists that assigning blame to the whole country is unwarranted.
Accusations of anti-Semitism have followed a far-right resurgence in the country. In March, an ex-senator and father of the current Polish prime minister argued that Jews moved to the Warsaw ghetto during WWII in order to avoid non-Jews, including “nasty Poles.”
Last year, a Polish historian who claimed that the situation with Jews “did not look very bad” after the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, was awarded an education ministry medal in recognition of his “special contribution” to education.
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