Auschwitz Museum slams New Yorker article on Polish Holocaust scholarship

The museum's director, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywinski, condemned the article for containing "so many lies and distoritons that I find it a bit hard to believe that it is a coincidence."

The entrance to Auschwitz (photo credit: AUSCHWITZ MUSEUM)
The entrance to Auschwitz
(photo credit: AUSCHWITZ MUSEUM)
 The Auschwitz Memorial Museum has criticized the New Yorker Magazine for an article on Polish Holocaust scholarship, claiming the publication has published distortions and outright falsifications of the Eastern European country's role during the Second World War.
Taking to Twitter, the museum's director, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywinski, condemned the article for containing "so many lies and distortions that I find it a bit hard to believe that it is a coincidence."
 
The article in question refers to a court case, where a Polish court ruled two Polish historians were guilty of libel for their 2018 book on the Holocaust, which had included testimony from a Jewish woman who accused Malinowo mayor Edward Malinowski of betraying 22 Jews to the Nazis. The woman, Estera Siemiatycka, had initially defended Maliowski of these accusations in 1947, but said in 1996 that he had indeed informed the Nazis about these Jews, betraying them, and had taken her possessions as well.
The historians – Prof. Barbara Engelking, founder and director of the Polish Center of Holocaust Research, and Prof. Jan Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian historian of the Holocaust at the University of Ottawa – were ordered to issue an apology for having "violated the honor" of Maliowski, to be issued to his 80-year-old niece, who had brought the libel suit in the first place, as well as change their book.
The trial and the verdict both faced criticism, with Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich calling it an "intimidation tactic" to "shut people up who say that Poles did anything bad during the Holocaust."
The trial was also criticized by Israel's Holocaust memorial museum, Yad Vashem, who labeled it an attack on free speech and academic and public discourse.
“Any effort to set the bounds of academic and public discourse through political or judicial pressure is unacceptable,” said Yad Vashem in a statement to the press at the time.
“It constitutes a serious attack on free and open research. Legal proceedings against Holocaust scholars because of their research are incompatible with accepted academic research norms and amount to an attack on the effort to achieve a full and balanced picture of the history of the Holocaust and on the veracity and, reliability of its underlying historical sources.”
Overall, many have criticized Poland for its perceived tendency to whitewash the role of its own people during the Holocaust. Likewise, the New Yorker article reflects these sentiments, writing in its subhead "To exonerate the nation of the murders of three million Jews, the Polish government will go as far as to prosecute scholars for defamation."
But as Cywinski points out, this is a private law suit under civil law. He added that "It is utterly shocking to assume that it is the nation (explicitly named in the same sentence that refers to the Polish government) responsible for the murder of 3 million Jews.
"History was very complex, but to reduce the entire Poland to the story of collaborators, blackmailers, informers, or murderers is a historical lie."
  
The New Yorker article describes more than just the court case, which the two scholars are trying to appeal. It gives an overview of alleged Polish historical revisionism and other practices both during the war and after. 
Poland has made efforts to criticize any attempt at linking the country to the events of the Holocaust and collaboration with Nazi Germany. A law had been passed in 2018 making it illegal to blame Poles or Poland for Nazi atrocities. 
Earlier, in 2012, then US president Barack Obama issued an apology through the National Security Council spokesperson for referring to concentration camps as "Polish death camps," the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported at the time.
And in another notable instance in 2019, relations between Israel and Poland were strained after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was misquoted as having said “The Poles cooperated with the Nazis” to kill Jews during the Holocaust, rather than simply meaning "some." Though Netanyahu later apologized, tensions were further worsened by then-foreign minister Israel Katz, who had angered Poland when, during an interview with i24 News about the issue, quoted former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir by saying “the Poles imbibe antisemitism from their mothers’ milk.”
This had led to Poland canceling its participation in a much-awaited conference in Israel by the Visegrad Group, consisting of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Jeremy Sharon and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.