Polish Appeals Court Dismisses Claims Against Holocaust Book Historians

WARSAW (Reuters) -
Jan Grabowski, one of the editors of “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland”, poses for a picture after an interview with Reuters in Warsaw, Poland February 8, 2021. (REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo)

An appeals court ruled on Monday that two historians accused of tarnishing the memory of a Polish villager in a book about the Holocaust need not apologise, overturning a lower court ruling that raised fears about freedom of academic research.

In February, a Warsaw court ruled that Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski, editors of “Night without end: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland”, must apologise for saying villager Edward Malinowski gave up Jews to the Nazi Germans.

Some academics said at the time that the ruling could deter impartial research into Poles’ actions during World War Two.

Grabowski told Reuters that Monday’s ruling was “a huge thing not only for myself and my colleagues, but for the entire profession of humanities here”.

Poland’s ruling nationalists say studies showing complicity by some Poles in the killing of Jews by Nazi Germany are an attempt to dishonour a country that suffered immensely during the war.

The case had been brought by Malinowski’s niece, Filomena Leszczynska, and funded by the Polish League Against Defamation, which opposes allegations of Polish involvement in the murder of Jews.

The appeals court judge dismissed her claims against the historians, underlining the importance of freedom of academic research and the need to avoid a chilling effect that could stop further studies.

“This is of particular importance in matters that constitute an important element of public debate, raising important social issues regarding the history of a given state and nation,” the judge said.

The head of the Polish League Against Defamation, Maciej Swirski, wrote on Twitter that Leszczynska planned to “fight on” and file an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court.

Poland’s 3.2 million Jewish population was the largest in Europe at the start of World War Two. Almost all were killed during the war, many of them in death camps.