We, the editors of the New Fascism Syllabus, condemn the suppression of academic freedom in Poland and the recent attacks on our colleagues, Dr. Barbara Engelking and Dr. Jan Grabowski. Following the Polish Senate’s widely criticized 2018 decision to criminalize speech relating to Polish responsibility for the Holocaust, banning terminology like “Polish Death Camps,” it has become increasingly difficult for scholars to conduct or share their research in the country.
Professor Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian historian of the Holocaust in Poland, was scheduled to speak at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw on May 30.1 His lecture, entitled “The (Growing) Polish Problem with the History of the Holocaust,” was interrupted and ultimately blocked by Grzegorz Braun, a Minister of Parliament in the far-right Konfederacja (Confederation) Party. Braun dismantled the event’s sound equipment and demanded an end to the lecture. As police removed him from the scene, he said he would not leave, claiming: “I am protecting the Polish nation against a provocative attack on our historical sensitivity.”2 There were also protesters outside the event, holding posters reading: “Poles were victims” and “German crimes, German responsibility.” After the event, Professor Grabowski remarked: “We are reaching a new level of violence against academics” in Poland.3 This event signals a further escalation of right-wing tactics to silence and instill fear in scholars of Fascism, Nazism, and specifically the Holocaust.
Just a few weeks prior to these protests, on April 19, for instance, Professor Engelking, another expert on the Holocaust in Poland, was attacked following an interview on the Polish news channel, TVN24. During the interview, Engelking expressed dismay at the level of historical distortion in Poland. Echoing the widespread consensus in the field, Engelking explained, “Jews were unbelievably disappointed with Poles during the war. They knew what to expect from the Germans, [who were] the enemy…but the relationship with Poles was much more complex,” and that there were “very few” Poles who had been willing to help Jews. Multiple prominent Polish leaders, including the Prime Minister and Education Minister, publicly condemned Professor Engelking for promoting an “anti-Polish narrative.”4
The New Fascism Syllabus Editorial Board
- Asaf Elia-Shalev, “Lecture on Holocaust in Poland Canceled after Far-Right Lawmaker Storms Podium,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (June 1, 2023), available at: https://www.jta.org/2023/06/01/global/lecture-on-holocaust-in-poland-canceled-after-far-right-lawmaker-storms-podium
- “Far-Right MP Forces Abandonment of Holocaust Scholar’s Lecture at German Institute in Warsaw,” Notes from Poland (May 31, 2023), available at: https://notesfrompoland.com/2023/05/31/far-right-mp-forces-abandonment-of-holocaust-scholars-lecture-at-german-institute-in-warsaw/
- Jacek Lepiarz, “Polish Radical Right-Wing MP Disrupts Lecture on Holocaust,” Deutsche Welle (June 1, 2023), available at: https://www.dw.com/en/polish-radical-right-wing-mp-disrupts-lecture-on-holocaust/a-65795483
- “Polish TV Station Investigated over Holocaust Scholar’s Claim Poles Did Little to Help Jews in WW2,” Notes from Poland (April 22, 2023), available at: https://notesfrompoland.com/2023/04/22/polish-tv-station-investigated-over-holocaust-scholars-claim-poles-did-little-to-help-jews-in-ww2/