JUSTICE - No. 68

32 No. 68 JUSTICE monument is devoted to Jan Maletka, a young Polish railway worker who was killed by the Germans for trying to deliver water to Jews dying of thirst in closed wagons, waiting to be pushed into the nearby death camp. There is no doubt that Jan Maletka was killed at the railway station, delivering water to Jews. Many Jewish sources confirm the fact that local Poles approached the trains offering water. However, they did it in exchange for dollars, diamonds, and gold. No one gave away water for free. We do not have even one Jewish account that indicates that people delivered water out of altruistic motives. But the monument, dedicated jointly to Jan Maletka and 900,000 Jews who died in Treblinka, blends the Polish sacrifice and Jewish suffering into one false narrative of common fate.14 While honest, critical and an open attitude to own national history is – practically without exception – a domain of democratic societies, democracy alone is no guarantee to prevail in this area. In Poland, the statefunded distortion of the Holocaust thrived well before 2015, still under the democratic regime. What changed under the current authoritarian regime is the scale of statesponsored attack on the memory of the Holocaust, as well as the vast financial and institutional resources committed to the task by the authorities. For the nationalists, “domesticating” the history of the Holocaust has become one of the central policy elements allowing them to consolidate the “patriotic” electorate. The defense of the “good name of the nation,” allegedly assaulted by independent historians, is nowadays conducted by wellfunded agencies of the state, under the shield of criminal investigations and civil litigation. In the opening paragraphs of this article, I referred to a civil lawsuit targeting myself and Dr. Engelking, as authors and editors of a collective work entitled “Night Without End.”15 In February 2021, Judge Ewa Jończyk of the Warsaw District court ruled against us, giving partial victory to the plaintiff. We appealed and, in August 2021, we were vindicated when the Warsaw Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the lower court, and entirely dismissed the lawsuit. This, however, was not the end of the story. Immediately, the Polish Minister of Justice decried the verdict as “not only an embarrassment for the court but also a judicial assault on the idea of justice.”16 In a normal, democratic country, a legal judgment of an Appellate Court is final. In Poland, however, it is a stage when the Minister of Justice can invoke the Extraordinary Complaint (Skarga Nadzwyczajna), a new law which allows the authorities to set aside any legal verdict which “strikes at the sense of justice of the nation” and send it to the Supreme Court. The “Chamber of Control” of the Supreme Court, which hears Extraordinary Complaints, has been created by the nationalists, and staffed with judges of their own choosing. The fate of this lawsuit is, in a way, indicative of the centrality and the importance of the battle for the history of the Holocaust. Much more dangerous and insidious than Holocaust denial, Holocaust distortion has now become a major threat to the memory of one of the greatest crimes in human history. The threat is not limited to Poland; in various forms it is also present in other countries of Eastern Europe. Finally, and counter-intuitively, Holocaust distortion, rather than fading away with time, gathers strength the more chronologically distant we are from the event itself. n Jan Grabowski, PhD, F.R.S.C, is Professor of History at the University of Ottawa and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He was appointed the 2021-2022 Cleveringa Chair at Leiden University in the Netherlands. His interests focus on the Holocaust in Poland, specifically, on the relations between Jews and Poles during the war. His book, “Hunt for the Jews. Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland,” was awarded the Yad Vashem International Book Prize in 2014. In 2018, he coedited and co-authored “Dalej jest noc” [Night Without End], a two-volume study of the fate of the Jews in selected counties of occupied Poland. It is to be published in English by Indiana University Press in 2022. His most recent book is “On Duty. The Role of the Polish 'Blue' Police in the Holocaust” (“Na Posterunku. Udział Polskiej Policji Granatowej i kryminalnej w Zagładzie Żydów,” Czarne Publishing House, Poland, 2020). 14. Since 2019, in the immediate vicinity of Treblinka, the Pilecki Institute unveiled nine other monuments commemorating Poles killed for trying to assist Jews. For more information on the Pilecki Institute and the Maletka monument scandal, see Jan Grabowski, “The New Wave of Holocaust Revisionism,” N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 29, 2022, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/29/ opinion/holocaust-poland-europe.html 15. To be published in English, in 2022, by Indiana University Press. 16. INTERIA WYDARZENIA, “'Dalej jest noc,’ Zbigniew Ziobro skomentował wyrok” [Zbigniew Ziobro Commented on the Verdict]. Aug. 17, 2021, available at https://wydarzenia. interia.pl/kraj/news-dalej-jest-noc-zbigniew-ziobroskomentowal-wyrok,nId,5425777

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