Tomasz Panfil, a historian affiliated with the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) and the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), testified on Tuesday, February 7, in a case brought by Professor Jan Grabowski against the Redoubt of Good Name (Polish Anti-defamation League). Panfil admitted that he has not read Grabowski’s books, and bases his knowledge of them only on reviews he has read. According to him, during the war “Poles killed Jews because the Polish state ceased to exist, and in its place appeared the German occupation state.”
The trial began in the Warsaw District Court on September 27. It concerns a letter signed by academics (none of whom were Holocaust historians), which Reduta initiated in 2017, then made public and sent to the University of Ottawa authorities. 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 – editor’s note) “has nothing to do with science,” (he is – editor’s note) “a purveyor of lies,” and “violates the tenets of the vocation of a scientist.”
Grabowski in 2018 filed a lawsuit against the Redoubt of the Good Name for protection of personal rights. A second hearing was held on February 7. At the previous one, Artur Przelaskowski of the Warsaw University of Technology and Grzegorz Berendt, director of the World War II Museum in Gdansk, testified.
Tomasz Panfil was one of the signatories of the letter drafted by Reduta. As he stated before the court, he signed it “for professional reasons.” – I do not agree with the methodology of doing history presented by Prof. Grabowski,” he said during the hearing. In his opinion, a historian cannot formulate theses and look for evidence to support them. – The work of a historian is to study sources and draw conclusions, which is the opposite of this methodology that Jan Grabowski uses. This is more the domain of propaganda.
Panfil at the same time admitted that the study of sources is aimed at arriving at the truth, but in essence it is impossible, because there is no chance of fully knowing the truth.
– One cannot describe the crimes of citizens of Polish descent against citizens of Jewish descent without taking into account that the Polish state did not exist, that the rules were put in place by the German occupiers, Panfil argued.
In his view, discussing whether Poles contributed to the deaths of 200,000 or 300,000 Jews is inappropriate, because “it’s not about numbers, it’s about the inhumane system introduced by the Germans, which led to the deaths of Jews, but also depraved Poles and other nations that were occupied.”
Panfil has not read any of Grabowski’s books, nor has he ever polemicized with him academically. He is, however, the author of a September 2017 article in Gazeta Polska that stirred up considerable controversy. The following paragraph was the most widely publicized: “After Germany’s aggression [against Poland in 1939], the situation of the Jews did not look very bad; admittedly, the occupation authorities put them under a labor order, ordered them to wear armbands with the Star of David, burdened them with massive taxes, began to designate Jewish-only zones, but at the same time allowed the creation of Jewish Councils, i.e. self-governing bodies.”
Panfil himself was then criticized by the IPN, which dissociated itself from the content of the article: “In connection with the theses contained in the article by Tomasz Panfil, Ph.D., in the weekly Gazeta Polska, the Institute of National Remembrance declares that the formulations presented there are in no way consistent with the position of the IPN or with the state of scientific knowledge on the situation of the Jewish population in Polish lands after September 1, 1939. […] The management of the IPN expects that Tomasz Panfil, Ph.D., in the course of his scientific and journalistic activities, will show due diligence and observe the principles of scientific and research integrity.”
During the next hearing (which will be held on September 1st) the court will hear from two more Reduta’s witnesses: Piotr Gontarczyk (IPN) and Marek Chodakiewicz.