Major Jewish Group: By Threatening to Prosecute Holocaust Scholar, Poland Attempting to ‘Rewrite History Through a Political Lens’
By threatening to prosecute a prominent Holocaust scholar for claiming that Poles killed more Jews during World War II than they did Germans, the Polish government is “apparently attempting to intimidate researchers and to rewrite history through a political lens,” an official with a leading US-based Jewish human rights organization said in a statement on Tuesday.
Mark Weitzman — the director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center — was referring to the case of Polish-born American historian Jan Tomasz Gross, who is facing a renewed investigation by a Polish state prosecutor for the alleged crime — punishable by up to three years in prison – of “publicly insulting the nation.”
Weitzman said the probe against Gross “bears all the hallmarks of a political witch-hunt.”
“While this had been customary under Communist rule, it is a clear departure from the vigorous and healthy debate that had been occurring in Poland since independence,” Weitzman noted.
“Any attempt by the Polish government to stifle or distort historical research on the Holocaust through legal or other means must be rejected, and the right to pursue historical research free from government interference must be clearly affirmed,” Weitzman stated.
In an interview with The Algemeiner in August, renowned antisemitism expert Manfred Gerstenfeld said there was no doubt that Poles have not yet come to terms with their country’s Holocaust history.
“On one hand, Poles saved Jews,” Gerstenfeld said. “On the other hand, they killed Jews. The Jews were put in ghettos. Jews fled from the ghettos, and some of those Jews fought with the resistance, and others were murdered by the resistance or delivered to the Germans.”
The issue of the murder of Jews by Poles was first focused on by Gross a decade and a half ago, with his publication of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. The book details a July 1941 incident in which at least 340 Polish Jews were murdered by a group of non-Jewish Poles.
Since the publication of that book, Gerstenfeld said, Gross has found evidence that the Jedwabne massacre was “not the exception.”
“There were massive killings, of which we do not know the number, of Jews by Poles,” Gerstenfeld said. “The Poles have not faced up to their history and they have not been able to disprove what Gross has said.”