Two Hundred Historians Back Polish Holocaust Expert under Attack

Two Hundred Historians Back Polish Holocaust Expert under Attack

In a letter of support, historians and scholars worldwide said that the Polish attack on Holocaust scholar professor Barbara Engelking harmed attempts “to understand the processes that allowed the Holocaust to take place.”

Two hundred historians, including senior Holocaust scholars from Israel and around the globe, signed a letter in support of professor Barbara Engelking, a Polish historian who has been under attack in her homeland after she said the Poles did not do enough to help Jews during the Shoah.

“We, the undersigned scholars of the Holocaust Era, the Second World War, and Modern and Jewish History, express our firm support for Professor Barbara Engelking and for academic freedom, in the face of an unbridled and unfounded attack by politicians, media, and other public figures. … We can attest to the fact that she is a scholar of impeccable personal and professional integrity. Her scholarship adheres to the highest academic standards, for which she has earned worldwide esteem,” the historians wrote.

Among the scholars who signed the letter are professor Yehuda Bauer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center and one of the leading Holocaust historians in the world, and Israel Prize winner professor Anita Shapira of Tel Aviv University.

“Despite the present climate in Poland that seeks to limit open discussion about Polish society during the Holocaust years, Professor Engelking, along with other academics associated with the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, has exhibited great intellectual and personal courage in researching and publishing her findings,” states the letter.

Among those who signed the letter of support are leading scholars of the Holocaust, World War II and modern history, from Yad Vashem and universities in Israel and around the world. Among the best-known signatories are professors Havi Dreifuss, Dina Porat, Dan Michman, David Silberklang, David Assaf, Motti Golani, Omer Bartov, Yfaat Weiss, Dalia Ofer and Sharon Geva. Professor Jan Gross, the author of the book “Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” which documented the massacre of Jews by Poles in 1941, signed the letter, too.

The letter joins a previous one supporting Engelking last month from all the leading Holocaust research institutions in Israel, led by Yad Vashem. Engelking is the founder and director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw.

Engelking came under attack after she gave an interview on the TVN television station which is a subsidiary of the American media giant Warner Brothers Discovery and Poland’s largest private television network. “Jews were unbelievably disappointed with Poles during the war. They knew what to expect from the Germans, [who were] the enemy… but the relationship with Poles was much more complex,” she said in the interview.

The interview marked the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

“Poles had the potential to become allies of the Jews, and one would hope that they would behave differently, that they would be neutral, kind, that they would not take advantage of the situation to such an extent, and that there would not be widespread blackmailing” of Jews who were hiding from the Germans, Engelking said in the interview.

Since then she was attacked by Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, ministers and members of parliament as well as by the Polish media and right-wing activists on social media. They accuse her of sullying the honor of the Polish people and distorting the historical truth about Poland during the Holocaust.

Later this month Engelking is to be awarded an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University.

Full story here.