Yad Vashem says Polish court ruling ‘a real threat to academic and press freedom’

Holocaust scholars Barbara Engelking, left, and Jan Grabowski, right. (Yad Vashem via AP / courtesy)
Holocaust scholars Barbara Engelking, left, and Jan Grabowski, right. (Yad Vashem via AP / courtesy)

Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum says it is “profoundly concerned” by a Polish court ruling that Holocaust scholars Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski must apologize for disseminating false information about a man they said helped kill Jews during World War II.

“Yad Vashem acknowledges the court’s verdict, but remains deeply disturbed by its implications,” it says in a statement. “Any attempt to limit academic and public discourse through political or legal pressure is unacceptable and constitutes a substantive blow to academic freedom.”

“Historical research must reflect the complex reality that existed in a given period, grounded in the scrupulous analysis of a body of existing documentation, as was done in this thorough book by the researchers,” it continues. “Yad Vashem knows and respects the professional work of the scholars and moreover will publish the English edition of their book. As with all research, this volume about the fate of Jews during the Holocaust is part of an ongoing discussion and as such is subject to critique in academia, but not in courts.

“The existing diverse documentation, along with many decades of historical research, shows that under the draconian Nazi German occupation of Poland and despite the widespread suffering of the Polish people under that occupation, there were Poles who were actively involved in the persecution of the Jews and in their murder.

“The prosecution of researchers and journalists who deal with these issues, instead of pursuing academic discussion as is the norm throughout the world, constitutes a real threat to academic and press freedom,” Yad Vashem writes.

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