Trial concerning the right to speak about the dark sides of Polish history

Rozprawa przed Sądem Okręgowym w Warszawie 27.09.2022

Polish children need to be shown a moral foundation and they have to be prevented from reading articles or books about the dark sides of Polish history – this is the conclusion that can be drawn from the first day of the trial that Prof. Jan Grabowski brought against the Redoubt of the Good Name [of the Polish Nation], headed by Maciej Świrski.

The trial began in Warsaw’s District Court on September 27. It concerns a letter signed by academics (none of whom were Holocaust historians) that the Redoubt initiated, then made public and sent to authorities at the University of Ottawa. The letter claimed that “Grabowski does not observe the basic principles of a researcher’s integrity,” “builds propaganda constructs,” “eliminates key facts,” (what he does) “has nothing to do with science,” (he is ) “a spreader of lies,” and “betrays the mission of a scientist.”

Grabowski filed a lawsuit in court in 2018 against the Redoubt Of Good Name for protection of personal rights. The first hearing was held today.

Prof. Artur Przelaskowski, an employee of the mathematics department at Warsaw School of Technology, called as a witness by the Redoubt, admitted that he had not read any of Prof. Grabowski’s books. He had, however, read one article by him in the Haaretz newspaper. The text dealt with the attitude of the Polish elites towards the Jews during the Holocaust. According to Przelaskowski – who is not a historian – Grabowski’s opinions were “unscientific.” In the courtroom, he asked Prof. Grabowski “not to use the title, the position of a professor, when discussing social issues.”

Przelaskowski went on to say that Prof. Grabowski “insults people, pigeonholes people, for me it is a political attack, Mr. Grabowski attacks Poland, Poles, Polish elites proving their co-responsibility for the Holocaust.”

At the same time, he assured that “we would like those Jews who suffered to be hugged, to undo what happened.” So why does he disagree with the research conducted by Prof. Grabowski? “We can’t assault today’s children with the wrongs that happened in the past. They need to build on something, we need to show them a moral foundation,” Przelaskowski said.

Therefore, he emphatically stated in court: “Today I would sign this letter as well, without any doubt.”

Przelaskowski also defended Andrzej Duda, chastising Prof. Grabowski for being critical of the Polish president.

“Andrzej Duda in Jerusalem [during the conference at Yad Vashem – editor’s note] wanted the floor because he wanted to speak on behalf of the 3 million murdered Jews. Mr. Grabowski wrote that the President of Poland today has no right to speak up for those 3 million Jews, because the Polish right refused to recognize those people as Poles,” Przelaskowski told the court. He immediately recognized Grabowski’s stance as “a general slap at face of the entire nation, at the president,” because “the president of Poland represents all Poles, he has the right to speak for all Poles.”

He also recounted the large amount of help that Jews in his hometown of Międzyrzec Podlaski experienced during the war. He also asserted: “I know thousands of priests who died in concentration camps.”

He then substantiated his claims: “I have this opinion [about Prof. Grabowski’s work – editor’s note], maybe I am not normal. We can’t throw around such monstrous slanders, this is racism, hitting the entire Polish nation, children will read this.” He later added visibly exasperated, “You can’t spit on them, on my both grandfathers.”

In closing words, Przelaskowski asserted that he could apologize for the form of the letter he signed, but not for its content.

The second witness who was questioned before the court that day was Prof. Grzegorz Berendt – historian, academic, chairman of the Program Council of the Jewish Historical Institute and the International Auschwitz Council. In his opinion, Prof. Grabowski’s most galling thesis was the one about Poles’ contribution to the deaths of some 200,000 Jews during the occupation. “These estimates that I encountered suggested direct participation in the capture, delivery [to the Germans – editor’s note], murder, or situations where it was officials or civilians who contributed to the death of their Jewish fellow citizens,” he said. He also disputed the claim that the involvement of Polish state institutions was insufficient to defend Jews.

He recalled that polemics with Grabowski’s findings were undertaken by IPN-affiliated Piotr Gontarczyk and Tomasz Domanski, as well as a local teacher from Węgrów, Radosław Jóźwiak.

“I, for more than a dozen years, have been involved in a different area of Holocaust research – the territories of western Belarus. The polemic can be fully entered by those who are familiar with the source material on a specific area. I was not researching the Węgrów district, so I did not feel entitled to enter the discussion,” Prof. Berendt testified in court.

In addition to the IPN employees, Berendt also cited Prof. Dariusz Stola, “who entered into a factual discussion as to the scale of the escape, how many Jewish people suffered persecution at the hands of their fellow citizens.”

At the same time, he admitted that research on the subject must be conducted.

At the next hearing, the court will hear the next Redoubt witnesses: Tomasz Panfil and Marek Chodakiewicz.


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