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August 17, 2021 5:23 pm
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Polish Justice Minister in Furious Attack on Independent Court’s Decision to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Holocaust Historians

avatar by Ben Cohen

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. Photo: Reuters/Adam Stepien/Agencja Gazeta.

Poland’s Minister of Justice on Tuesday launched an extraordinary attack on a judge’s decision to reject a lawsuit brought against two leading historians of the Holocaust.

In a post on Twitter, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said the decision of the Appellate Court in Warsaw in favor of the historians Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking — who edited the two-volume, 1,600 page study “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland” — amounted to a “judicial assault on justice.”

In February, a Warsaw court ruled that the two scholars had to apologize for an entry in the study stating that Edward Malinowski — the mayor of the village of Malinowo in north-eastern Poland — had betrayed Jews to the German occupiers. The lawsuit was filed by Malinowski’s 81-year-old niece, Filomena Leszczyńska, who also demanded an admission from Grabowski and Engelking that the purpose of their work was to accuse Poles of murdering Jews during the Nazi occupation.

Leszczyńska’s legal expenses were paid by the Polish League Against Defamation, an ultranationalist group that targets historians and others researching the issue of Polish collusion and participation in the genocide of their Jewish neighbors.

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On Monday, however, an appeals judge in Warsaw overturned the original court decision, emphasizing the right of academics to carry out research and publish their findings without fear of legal censure.

In his Twitter post on Tuesday morning, Ziobro angrily derided the appeal court’s decision.

The court had arbitrarily decided that Grabowski and Engelking “are scholars, so they can lie with impunity, and turn a hero into a criminal, a Pole who saved Jews into an accomplice in their deaths.”

Ziobro continued: “This is not only an embarrassment for the court, it is a judicial assault on justice.”

Speaking to The Algemeiner on Tuesday afternoon, Grabowski said that the minister’s tweet caused him to fear for the safety of the appeals judge as well as the broader independence of Poland’s judiciary.

“The judge was fair and open-minded,” Grabowski said. “But given this tweet by the Justice Minister, the chilling effect on the judiciary will be profound.”

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