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February 5, 2021 12:44 pm
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Cops in Poland Question Editor of Jewish Website Over Article on Polish Complicity With Nazi Persecution

avatar by Ben Cohen

Protesters hold a banner reading “Antisemitism is treatable” during a counter-demonstration against a far-right rally in Warsaw, February 5, 2018. Photo: Agencja Gazeta/Dawid Zuchowicz/Reuters.

The editor of a website devoted to Jewish life in Poland was questioned by Polish police on Thursday, following an anonymous complaint concerning an article she wrote about Polish complicity with the Nazi persecution of the country’s 3 million Jews during World War II.

Katarzyna Markusz — a journalist and academic who runs the website Jewish.pl — was questioned by officers at the police station in Sokołów Podlaski where she lives, the news outlet Oko.press reported on Friday.

The anonymous complaint against Markusz, filed with the public prosecutor in the Ochota district of Warsaw, accused her of violating Article 133 of the Polish constitution: “Whoever publicly insults the Nation or the Republic of Poland shall be subject to the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to 3 years.”

Last October, Markusz wrote an article for the journal Krytyka Polityczna in which she asked: “Will we live to see the day when the Polish authorities also admit that hostility toward Jews was widespread among Poles, and that Polish complicity in the Holocaust is a historical fact?”

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In the same piece, she argued that Polish politicians and diplomats preferred “a comfortable life in an imaginary world of values ​​and attributes attributed to their own nation to telling the truth.”

She continued: “The steadfastness, hospitality, bravery and nobility of Poles and, of course, the allegedly enormous help given to Jews during and immediately after the war, is one of those fictions that have been fed to us by Polish politicians for many decades.”

Interviewed about her encounter with the authorities, Markusz said that the police officer who questioned her asked whether she had “wanted to offend the Polish nation” with her article.

“Of course not,” she told the outlet.

Markusz commented that she had received “a lot of hateful messages. But this was the first time someone complained to the prosecutor’s office. I believe that such matters are a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Markusz’s questioning by police came a few days after Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust expressed grave concern over the ongoing trial of two leading scholars of the Nazi period, whose research shed new light on the extent of Polish collaboration with the Nazis.

A verdict in the libel trial of Professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski is expected on Monday. The two historians have been prosecuted under legislation passed by the Polish parliament 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.”

In a statement supporting Engelking and Grabowski, the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem decried the trial as “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,” Yad Vashem declared.

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