Polish move to strip Holocaust expert of award sparks protests

Historians in the News
tags: Holocaust, Princeton University, Jan Tomasz Gross



Academics have rallied to the defence of one of the world’s leading Holocaust historians after reports that Poland intends to strip him of a national honour because he claimed that Poles were complicit in Nazi war crimes.

Princeton University professor Jan Tomasz Gross, 69, was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1996. He is best known for his 2001 bookNeighbors, which describes in graphic detail the 1941 massacre by Polish villagers of up to 1,600 Jewish men, women and children. The book inspired Aftermath (Pokłosie), a 2012 film directed by Władysław Pasikowski.

The move against the historian comes as the nationalist Law and Justice government, elected in 2015, comes under European scrutiny for law changes that, critics say, threaten democracy. President Andrzej Duda signed into law a controversial move bringing the attorney general under the control of the justice ministry. Critics say this will put political pressure on the judiciary.

Intellectuals who in the past few days have signed two open letters in Gross’s defence say the Law and Justice government wants to rewrite history, expunging any suggestion of Polish complicity in past horrors.

“The government says Gross is unpatriotic. But he is a patriot who looks at both the darker and lighter periods in Polish history,’’ said University of Ottawa history professor Jan Grabowski, who is among 30 signatories of the first letter, published last week. ...




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