Tuesday, February 09, 2021
Judgment in Poland
Holocaust researchers have to apologize
Two historians in Poland have to answer in court because of inaccuracies in a Holocaust study. According to the verdict, they must apologize. The y are only spared a fine. No wonder that the unusual process is making waves internationally.
Two Holocaust researchers have to apologize for inaccuracies in their historical treatise following the verdict of a court in Poland.
The Warsaw District Court refused any compensation requested by the plaintiff.
The verdict is not yet legally binding. A lawyer for the historians announced that they wanted to appeal.
The renowned history professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski dealt with the extermination of Jews in the Polish province under German occupation in their 2018 book “Dalej jest noc” (“And it’s still night”).
The niece of a former mayor from eastern Poland had complained.
The woman saw the memory of her uncle defamed because the historians write in their book that the mayor was complicit in the death of more than 20 Jews hidden in the forest who had been handed over to the Germans. He also said he had taken her belongings and some of her belongings from a Jewish woman before he helped her.
In a post-war trial he was acquitted after this Jewish witness testified wrongly and in his favor.
The re was no evidence in the book to support these claims. Engelking relied on statements that the Jewish witness had made for the Shoah Foundation in 1996 in a statement that was later added.
Uncle as a lifesaver
The plaintiff took the position that her uncle had saved the life of this Jew and had also stood up for other Jews.
The 80-year-old was supported by the right-wing national foundation “Reduta. Fortress of the good name – League against defamation”. She had demanded a public apology from the authors and the equivalent of 22,500 euros in compensation.
The court now ruled that the historians should apologize to the woman for having violated her right to remember a deceased relative by “providing inaccurate information”.
The paragraph in the book that deals with her uncle Edward Malinowski should also be changed in future editions.
The apology should be published on the website of the Center for Research into the Holocaust.
Judge Ewa Jonczyk emphasized that the judgment could not have a deterrent effect on scientific research.
The court does not determine the representation of the people mentioned in the book.
The re are descriptions of heroic deeds, but also negative figures.
The scientists are obliged to be diligent and honest.
“Should have sold my apartment”
Engelking was relieved that she and Grabowski were not fined. “I would have had to sell my apartment to pay the fine, it does mean something to me,” she said. Whoever writes scientific books also has the right to make mistakes.
The se would normally be clarified by reviews or corrected in a second edition, but not tried in court. Her lawyer announced that they would appeal the verdict because they did not agree with some of the wording in the apology requested.
Historians and Holocaust experts around the world had expressed concern about the trial.
The y feared that researchers would be intimidated.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) criticized the court ruling: “It is simply unacceptable that historians should be afraid to cite credible statements from Holocaust survivors,” said WJC President Ronald Lauder.
The outcome of the proceedings does not bode well for the future of historical research in Poland and sends the wrong message to anyone who wants to restrict the work of scientists, Lauder continued.