Statement about the legal proceedings against Polish historians
The organizers of the symposium The New Polish School of Holocaust History (February 2019) release the following statement in support of their fellow Polish historians who are being prosecuted for their research:
Two years ago, Polish nationalists disrupted the Paris Conference "New Polish School of Holocaust History". This conference, organized at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), and supported par the Fondation pour la mémoire de la Shoah (FMS) intended to introduce the historical work of Polish researchers and to support them in the face of the attacks they were undergoing from the Polish authorities.
During of the Conference, the government press and television in Warsaw, as well as some extreme right-wing media, relayed "patriotic protests" against the Conference, some of which explicitly anti-semitic; they publicly denounced our Polish colleagues.
The Conference proceedings were published by CNRS-Editions.
Today, the nationalist right has concentrated its attacks on the judicial field. On January 12, the final hearing of the defamation trial against Barbara Engelking, director of the Research Centre for the Extermination of Jews (Polish Academy of Sciences) and Jan Grabowski, professor of history at the University of Ottawa, took place. They are accused of having edited a book (Further on, it's still night, 2018) in which Barbara Engelking allegedly tarnished the memory of a village elder during the German occupation, mentioning that he was jointly responsible for the death of Jews, whereas, according to the accusation, he had behaved in the opposite way.
The defamation lawsuit is brought by a niece of the elder, financed by the powerful "League for the Defense of the Good Name of Poland", an organization supported by the authorities. The novelty in this attack against historians lies in the fact that it directly challenges the sources, methods and the results of scientific research conducted over several years. Barbara Engelking has often emphasized in her works that the same individuals could both save Jews and denounce Jews. This complexity belongs to the reality of Jewish-Polish relations during the war.
The nationalist camp, « champion of the national pride », does not want to see the complexity of these historical facts. And the judges are put in the position of having to pronounce on historical research that is outside of their field of competence.
Within the context of the lawsuit, these attacks involve requests of damages: they aim to financially ruin our colleagues. This pernicious attack at the very heart of research, by individuals who are determined to call into question every advance in the social sciences, is a very serious concern: it aims not only to discredit the work of internationally renowned specialists, but also to dissuade young researchers from the study of these risky issues.
We join the protests of international historians against this witch hunt trial.
The sentencing is scheduled for February 9th.