Center for Jewish History Statement about the New Polish Legislation

The Center for Jewish History issued a statement today in response to the legislation passed by the Polish Parliament that threatens to criminalize the factual assertion that some Poles were involved in the murder of Jews.

In issuing the statement, the Center’s President/CEO, Professor David N. Myers, said:

The Center for Jewish History, together with its distinguished Partner organizations—the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, the Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research—is one of the world’s most distinguished homes of historical research related to the Jewish past.  As such, the Center, its Academic Advisory Council, and the five Partners are committed to honest and accurate historical scholarship. The statement below reflects our shared concern over recent attempts by the Polish Parliament to legislate a new narrative about the Second World War.  We recognize the great progress that has been made in Polish-Jewish relations over the course of nearly thirty years.  But we also recognize some worrisome signs, including the treatment of the eminent scholar of Polish-Jewish history, Prof. Jan Gross, whose path-breaking research has led to threats of indictment for libel in his native Poland.  We are proud to be hosting Prof. Gross at the Center as part of our “History Matters” series on February 20 at 7pm.

The Official Statement:

The Center for Jewish History regards with deep concern the new Holocaust bill passed by the Polish parliament and which President Andrzej Duda has signaled he will sign. The proposed law would make punishable by fine or imprisonment the assertion that “the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”  In taking this position, we recognize that it was Nazi Germany that established death camps on Polish soil--and that many Poles and the Polish nation at large suffered grievously under Nazism.  At the same time, it cannot be denied that some Polish people were involved in the murder of Jews during (and after) the Second World War.  To acknowledge that indisputable fact should not render one susceptible to a fine or imprisonment.  The Center for Jewish History is committed to scholarly rigor, accuracy, and probity and calls on Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal to ensure that the new legislation not distort the sensitive historical record of the Second World War.

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David P Rosenberg
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