Future of Holocaust research in Poland hinges on libel case


WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two Polish historians are facing a libel trial for a scholarly examination of Polish behavior during World War II, a case whose outcome is expected to determine the fate of independent Holocaust research under Poland’s nationalist government.

A verdict is expected in Warsaw’s district court on Feb. 9 in the case against Barbara Engelking, a historian with the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw, and Jan Grabowski, a professor of history at the University of Ottawa.

It is the first closely watched Holocaust speech case since Poland sought to pass a law in 2018 that would have criminalized the act of falsely blaming Poland for Germany’s Holocaust crimes. Those criminal penalties were dropped in favor of civil penalties after the legislation sparked a major diplomatic dispute with Israel.

The current case is instead a civil libel case tried under a pre-existing law, yet many scholars believe it will set an important precedent for freedom of Holocaust research.

Since it won power in 2015, Poland’s conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, has sought to discourage investigations into Polish wrongdoing during the wartime German occupation, preferring instead to almost exclusively stress Polish heroism and suffering. The aim is to promote national pride — but critics say the government has been whitewashing the fact that some Poles also collaborated in the German murder of Jews.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Dalton

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