National Post (National Edition)
Polish court rebukes Canadian scholar
TORONTO • A Polish court order that an eminent Canadian historian and his co-editor apologize for suggesting a man helped kill Jews during the Second World World has angered Jewish human rights activists in Canada and abroad.
They say the ruling against Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking is part of an effort to obscure Polish complicity in the genocide of Jews during the Holocaust.
Michael Levitt, head of Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, called the ruling shameful.
“Poland cannot continue to bury the facts and silence Holocaust scholars,” Levitt said. “Its actions must be roundly rejected by Canada and the rest of the international community.”
The group said it was reaching out to senior government leaders urging them to speak out against “Holocaust distortion in Poland.”
At issue was a short passage in a 1,600-page book Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland, co-edited by Grabowski, a professor at the University of Ottawa, and Engelking, director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw.
According to the passage, which Engelking wrote, Edward Malinowski robbed a Jewish woman during the war and contributed to the deaths of 22 other Jews hiding in a forest in Malinowo in 1943.
Malinowski's niece, Filomena Leszczynska, 81, argued her uncle was a Polish hero who had saved Jews, and that the scholars had defamed her and her family. She demanded a retraction and 100,000 zlotys — about $34,000 — in compensation.
Judge Ewa Jonczyk ordered the authors to make a written apology for “providing inaccurate information” and “violating his honour.” The judge, however, stopped short of imposing monetary compensation, saying it could hinder academic research.
Nevertheless, Mark Weitzman, with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the ruling opened the door to further intimidation of Holocaust scholars and researchers.
“By ordering the scholars to `apologize,' it puts both historians and victims on trial, and offers protection to the reputations of Poles and others who collaborated in the murder of Jews,” Weitzman said
Grabowski could not be reached for comment, although Engelking said they planned an appeal.