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February 1, 2021 4:17 pm

Yad Vashem Decries Ongoing Libel Trial Against Holocaust Scholars in Poland as ‘Attack’ on Academic Research

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Nazi leader Adolf Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland in September 1939. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust has expressed concern that the trial in Poland involving two prominent scholars of the Nazi Holocaust constitutes an “attack” on academic freedom.

In a statement on Sunday, Yad Vashem reiterated its frustration with the ongoing libel trial against Prof. Barbara Engelking, founder and Director of the Polish Center of Holocaust Research, and Prof. Jan Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian historian of the Holocaust at the University of Ottawa. Both scholars are being targeted by legislation passed by Polish legislators in 2018 that enables civil suits against anyone deemed to be supporting the historical claim that “the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”

Engleking and Grabowski are being sued over a passage in their 2018 jointly-authored study “Night Without End,” which examined the fate of Jews who escaped into the Polish countryside during the Nazi occupation of Poland, many of whom were delivered into German hands by Polish collaborators.

The passage discussed the part played by Edward Malinowski, the mayor of the village of Malinowo in eastern Poland, who was acquitted of collaborating with the Nazis in 1947 thanks to the testimony of a Holocaust survivor. However, the survivor, Estera Siemiatycka, subsequently stated — in testimony given nearly half-a-century later to the Shoah Foundation — that Malinowski had betrayed Jews hiding in nearby forests to the Germans.

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Declaring that “any effort to set the bounds of academic and public discourse through political or judicial pressure is unacceptable,” Yad Vashem said that the trial of the two scholars “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,” the Yad Vashem statement asserted.

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