An answer to the IPN

A few days ago I published on Facebook a short note in English (a Polish translation has later been published on the website Jewish.pl) in which I expressed my disappointment with the Museum of the Warsaw Ghetto (also called by Mr. Gliński, the Polish minister of Culture, “Museum of Polish-Jewish Love”) for legitimizing one Dr. Domański from the IPN as an “expert” on the history of the Holocaust. The only feather in dr. Domański’s cap (as far as Holocaust is concerned) is his brutal attack against the authors of a two-volume study “Night without end”, published in Poland, in 2018. This attack, published as a brochure and widely distributed by the IPN, and which masquerades as a “scientific review”, is an unsophisticated and brutal attempt to undermine the academic credibility of independent scholars. The responses given by all nine co-authors and published on the website of the Polish Center of Holocaust Research at the IFiS (Polish Academy of Sciences) reveal the quality (or rather lack thereof) of dr. Domański’s efforts. More importantly, dr. Domański’s “review” was a part of a much larger attack conducted last year simultaneously by the Polish state-owned media, by right-wing press, the Polish Foreign Office and – above all – by the IPN. To make it short, the last thing a museum devoted to the history of the destruction of Polish Jews should do, is to legitimize an IPN employee engaged in this sort of attacks. From the point of view of a historian of the Holocaust dr. Domański is a man from nowhere.

It did not take long for the IPN to react. A communiqué “In defense of dr. Domański” has been published on April 27 and one day later the IPN’s “Colleguim” (administrative cap) added its own three groschen. While the IPN’s communiqué appeared in three languages, the Collegium published its own contribution in five languages! In the first document we read: “In its activities, the Institute of National Remembrance has always applied the principle of freedom of scientific research, emphasizing the requirements of historical reliability.

It is impossible to take this statement seriously, at face value. The IPN only masquerades as a scientific institutions and its employees masquerade as scientists. IPN is, most of all, state institution enforcing, in the public sphere, the official historical narrative of the nationalist government, currently in power, in Poland. People employed by the IPN are not historians but officials tasked with fulfilling the targets set by their superiors with the help of massive financial resources provided directly from the state budget. As a reminder: in the world of science, a historian defines herself her own research area, she formulates her research strategy and she applies for funds in open competitions which are being adjudicated by other researchers. In the academia we call it peer-review. In the world of the IPN, the funds arrive from the government coffers and one defends the party line, as formulated by higher-ranking officials of that institution.

Now, about the “IPN Collegium” declaration: its members take issue with the form of my original protestation. They write: “Prof. Jan Grabowski does not give any specific and factual arguments in his text, their place being taken by invectives. The Council of the Institute of National Remembrance firmly states that it does not agree with this method of polemics”. Well, if the members of the IPN “Collegium” prefer an academic – as opposed to journalistic – discourse then I encourage them strongly to read (in Polish or in English) the detailed, academic, polemics written by all nine authors of “Night without end”. Having read them, they might even understand why dr. Domański’s “review” has no right on citizenship in the world of academic discourse.

Myself, I would like to restate that the IPN – in matters of the history of the Holocaust and among the scholars of the Holocaust – is an institution without any international credibility. Translating the announcments of the IPN into fifteen further languages will only further underline the fact that this institution received from the Polish state 400.000.000 zlotys (100.000.000 U$) which it is right now throwing out the window, at the time when Polish taxpayers are fighting with the great epidemic.

Jan Grabowski,
Profesor Historii,
Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa
2020 Distinguished Fellow, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich