(Ottawa – March 3, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) condemns the unjust conviction last month by a Polish Court of Canadian professor Jan Grabowski (University of Ottawa) and Polish professor Barbara Engelking (Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw) for their scholarship critically examining the Holocaust in Poland.
A civil case of libel was brought against the historians over their co-edited book, Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland, which investigates the persecution of Polish Jews toward the end of World War II. The researchers used testimony from Holocaust survivors to examine a claim that the late mayor of a town outside of Warsaw had collaborated with German soldiers, resulting in the execution of a group of Jews.
With the assistance of the Polish Anti-Defamation League, a government-backed nationalist organization whose goal is to defend against so-called historical “misrepresentation” regarding Poland’s past, the late mayor’s niece successfully filed for defamation under a controversial law passed by the Polish parliament in 2018. The legislation makes it a civil offense to attribute responsibility or complicity for Nazi crimes to the Polish nation.
The verdict sets a dangerous precedent and violates basic principles of free inquiry. Nationalist censure of independent research of the Holocaust and World War II in Poland supresses academic freedom, exposes Holocaust historians and scholars to intimidation, and places a chill on historical and archival research. CAUT urges Polish authorities to respect academic freedom by refraining from any attempt to shape the direction and content of teaching and scholarship.