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April 27, 2021 4:01 pm

Fourth Expert Resigns From Polish Government’s Auschwitz Council After Appointment of Hardline Nationalist Stirs Controversy

avatar by Ben Cohen

A sign at the Auschwitz death camp ordering “Stop!” in German and Polish. Photo: Reuters/Kacper Pempel.

Another expert has resigned from the Polish government’s advisory council for the Auschwitz concentration camp, following the appointment of a hardline nationalist former prime minister to the same body earlier this month.

Prof. Edward Kosakowski announced his resignation from the council on Tuesday. While Kosakowski did not issue a statement explaining his decision, Polish media outlets underlined that his departure came less than two weeks after three Holocaust experts resigned from the council in protest at the addition of former Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło, a leading figure in the ruling Law and Justice Party and presently a member of the European Parliament.

The resignation of Kosakowski, a Professor Emeritus at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, means that four of the nine seats on the council — a group of eminent Polish citizens who meet annually to advise the director of the Auschwitz museum — are now vacant.

Critics have asserted that the presence of Szydło on the council marks a potentially fatal step towards “politicizing” the Auschwitz museum’s content, in tandem with the government’s wider campaign to muzzle historical research into collaboration between the occupying Nazis and Polish citizens in the extermination of the Jews.

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The original announcement of her appointment was roundly condemned by Jewish organizations, with the Israel-Poland Friendship Society declaring itself “surprised and alarmed by the personnel changes in the Auschwitz Museum Council.”

While she was serving as Prime Minister of Poland in 2017, Szydło — who hails from Oswiecim, a city adjacent to the Auschwitz site — initiated the creation of a new museum named “The Museum of the Righteous from Auschwitz.” The museum’s goal, she said at the time, was to provide “testimony about heroes and good and decent people. It is up to us to remind the world about who was the executioner, who was the victim, who was the torturer, and who was the hero.”

However, one year later, once Szydło was out of office, the reference to Auschwitz was removed and the project was renamed the “Museum of the Memory of the Inhabitants of the Land of Oswiecim,” following discreet negotiations between Polish and Israeli representatives.

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