Wiesenthal Center Condemns Use of Proposed New Polish Law to Blatantly Intimidate Holocaust Researchers

November 1, 2016

The Simon Wiesenthal Center today strongly condemned an attempt by Polish prosecutors to use a proposed new law to threaten an eminent historian with three years imprisonment. Mark Weitzman, the Director of Government Affairs of the Center said, “Reports that Polish prosecutors in Katowice have rejected an initial opinion dismissing charges brought against renowned Princeton historian Jan Gross for 'defaming the Polish nation' and are continuing the case are highly alarming. Professor Gross, (pictured) whose highly acclaimed groundbreaking book, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland on the killings of Jews in Jedwabne by their Polish neighbors was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001, now faces a renewed investigation that bears all the hallmarks of a political witch-hunt.”

Weitzman, who also chairs the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial of the thirty-one nation International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), of which Poland is a member, added, “This action is all the more disturbing because Poland, as a member of the IHRA, has committed itself to the Stockholm Declaration of 2000, which includes a 'commitment to encourage the study of the Holocaust in all its dimensions'. By taking this drastic step, the government of Poland is apparently attempting to intimidate researchers and to rewrite history through a political lens. While this had been customary under Communist rule, it is a clear departure from the vigorous and healthy debate that had been occurring in Poland since independence.”

“Any attempt by the Polish government to stifle or distort historical research on the Holocaust through legal or other means must be rejected, and the right to pursue historical research free from government interference must be clearly affirmed,” Weitzman concluded.

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).