A Jewish newspaper has won an 18-month legal battle against the Polish League Against Defamation for publishing a quote the league believed mischaracterized Poles as Nazis, according to a report by the Press Gazette.
The Jewish News won what is being described as a “landmark legal battle” against the Polish nationalist group that centered around the article, “Polish restitution law excludes most Holocaust survivors and heirs.” In the article, the author quotes a statement by the heads of the World Jewish Restitution Organization who said they were “profoundly disappointed that the Polish government’s proposal excludes the vast majority of Polish Holocaust survivors and their families."
Mira Wszelaka, president of the Polish League Against Defamation, took the free weekly newspaper to court claiming the article implied Poles were responsible for the confiscation of Jewish property and other atrocities against Jews and complaining that the word “German” should have been placed in front of the word “Nazi” to make the distinction clear.
The case was one of the first civil cases brought under a new Polish law that criminalizes references to Poles’ complicity in the Holocaust, the Press Gazette explained.
The controversial Holocaust Law was met with much and immediate international criticism when first past as many said it violates freedom of expression by essentially banning accusations that some Poles were complicit in Nazi crimes committed on Polish soil, including in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, where more than 1.1 million people died. Germany operated six camps in Poland.
Earlier this month, a judge at Warsaw’s District Court dismissed the claim by the league against the newspaper. The judge said statements made during proceedings by the claimant had not been proven.
Editor-in-chief Richard Ferrer told the Press Gazette that, “this is an important ruling not only for Jewish News but all media. The implications for freedom of speech and freedom of the press had we lost would have been catastrophic….A free press is essential to a modern democracy and to the rule of law.
Wszelaka was ordered to pay 5720 Zloty (about $1,500) in legal costs and other expenses, according to a court document.