Polish nationalism takes a more threatening turn

Tomasz Greniuch, an activist with the ultra-right National Radical Camp (ONR), is new director of the Wroclaw branch of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance

JVL Introduction

In July 2018 we reposted an article by Israeli Prof Yehuda Bauer under the title Poland exempts itself from criticism about the Holocaust.

Bauer then accused the Israeli government of accepting “the mendacious official Polish narrative” about the Holocaust and by so doing legitimising the Polish government campaign to harass anyone who exposed Poles’ involvement in the crimes of the Holocaust.

The situation has deteriorated, as David Rosenberg explains in this article from Jewish Socialist.

He calls on Jewish community organisations here in Britain to pressurise our Tory government – which has very friendly relationships with the highly conservative Polish government – to condemn and protest against state interference in the writing of the history of the Holocaust.

Developments in Poland follow from the official mandating of a national celebratory historical narrative. It is precisely this that  UK  Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is seeking here…

This article was originally published by Jewish Socialists’ Group on Fri 12 Feb 2021. Read the original here.

Polish nationalism takes a more threatening turn

The verdict against two Holocaust historians in a libel trial has chimed with sinister actions by the Polish state, which are encouraging more open expressions of antisemitism. David Rosenberg reports

The judge in a libel trial in Poland has ordered two Polish historians to write a letter apologising to the niece of a deceased Polish village elder who they claim was complicit in the Holocaust. In their two-volume work, published by the Polish Centre for Holocaust research, the historians acknowledge that the man had helped save one Jewish women’s life but allege that he was implicated in betraying other Jews hidden in a nearby forest, 18 of whom were subsequently murdered. His niece submitted the libel claim with the encouragement of right-wing Polish organisations.

The judge sided with her claim and ordered the historians to apologise to the niece, make a statement on the website of the Research Institute that had published their book, and amend the record in subsequent editions. The judge did, however, reject the demand from the plaintiff that they pay compensation of 100,000 zlotys (£19,000). The two historians, Jan Grabowski, son a of Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor and Catholic mother, and Barbara Engelking are defending their claims and appealing against the verdict.

There have been some deeply disturbing developments before and after this trial. A few days before the verdict, Polish police following up an anonymous complaint arrested and questioned a journalist, Katarzyna Markusz. She was suspected of violating Article 133 of the Polish Constitution which threatens those who “publicly insult the Nation or the Republic of Poland” with a penalty of up to three years in prison. In an article published last October she had written: “Will we live to see the day when the Polish authorities also admit that hostility toward Jews was widespread among Poles, and that Polish complicity in the Holocaust is a historical fact?”

The second sinister development was a tweet following the libel verdict by Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesperson for the Director-Coordinator of the Polish Secret Services. He condemned “insinuations against Poland” that “were published after the court verdict” by international media which “have slandered Poland”. He called them a “dangerous phenomenon” which will “have an impact on the information security of the Poland (sic). The authors of the book slandered an innocent person of a serious crime. That’s the truth!” Meanwhile, Zbigniew Ziobro, the Polish Minister of Justice, was tweeting: “this brave woman stood against the lying propaganda slandering the poles!” And yet the Polish state pretends to stand above the whole affair.

In a further disturbing development, the Wroclaw branch of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance – a government agency charged with popularising modern Polish history and prosecuting “crimes against the Polish nation” – has just appointed a new director, Tomasz Greniuch. He was active for several years in the ultra-right National Radical Camp (ONR) which sees itself as the continuity organisation of the deeply antisemitic Catholic Nationalist body of late 1930s Poland of the same name. In Greniuch’s street activity with the ONR he has been photographed giving the Nazi salute on more than one occasion.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group wishes Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking good luck with their appeal. We call upon anti-fascists and Jewish community organisations here in Britain to pressurise our Tory government, which claims to take antisemitism seriously yet has the closest and friendliest relationship with the ultra-nationalist-conservative Polish Government, to condemn and protest against the Polish state’s interference in these matters and support those who seek the truth about who was implicated in the Holocaust and how.

The political background to the libel trial is examined in David Rosenberg’s History and Freedom on Trial.