Yad Vashem ‘Concerned’ over Poland’s Prosecution of Holocaust Scholars
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, expressed concern over the trial in Poland of Polish researchers Prof. Barbara Engelking and Prof. Jan Grabowski, adding that it “emphatically reiterates its principled position elaborated back in July 2018, which stated that any effort to set the bounds of academic and public discourse through political or judicial pressure is unacceptable.”
Prof. Barbara Engelking is a Polish sociologist specializing in Holocaust studies. The founder and director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw, she is the author or editor of several works on the Holocaust in Poland.
Prof. Jan Grabowski is a Polish-Canadian professor of history at the University of Ottawa, specializing in Jewish–Polish relations in German-occupied Poland during World War II, and in the Holocaust in Poland. Co-founder in 2003 of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw, Grabowski received wide attention with his 2013 book Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland, which won the Yad Vashem International Book Prize.
Both Polish Holocaust historians are on trial for alleged defamation for their claim that the now deceased head of a village outside Warsaw, Edward Malinowski, who was credited with saving a Jewish woman was also involved in the murder of 22 other Jews.
According to the prosecution, the historian Prof. Grabowski and sociologist Prof. Engelking, co-authors of the study “It’s still night. The fate of Jews in selected counties in occupied Poland,” described Malinowski’s actons on the basis of poorly verified sources, and did not exercise particular care and accuracy. They were sued by 80-year-old Filomena Leszczyńska, Malinowski’s niece, who claimed that as a result of the paper, her uncle “was once again indicated as complicit in the death of the Jews.”
After the war, Malinowski was accused of collaborating with the Germans. But in their paper, Engelking and Grabowski go even further, accusing him of responsibility for the deaths of several dozen Jews who had been hiding near his village. They also accused Malinowski of looting a Jewish woman named Esther Drogicka, the very woman who credited Malinowski with saving her life.
Yad Vashem said on Sunday that the trial “constitutes a serious attack on free and open research. Legal proceedings against Holocaust scholars because of their research are incompatible with accepted academic research norms and amount to an attack on the effort to achieve a full and balanced picture of the history of the Holocaust and on the veracity and, reliability of its underlying historical sources.”
“Yad Vashem continues to be committed to research on the Holocaust and to facilitate in every way the work of scholars and educators around the world and in Israel to confront without limits the complex truth of the Holocaust,” the organization stated.