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Holocaust scholars ordered to apologise in Polish libel case

Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski must apologise to Filomena Leszczynska for ‘providing inaccurate information’ about her late uncle.


A group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers (AP)

A group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers (AP)

A group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers (AP)

A court in Warsaw has ruled that two prominent Holocaust researchers must apologise to a woman who claimed her deceased uncle had been defamed in an historical work that suggested he helped kill Jews during the Second World War.

Lawyers for 81-year-old Filomena Leszczynska argued that her uncle was a Polish hero who had saved Jews, and that the scholars had harmed her good name and that of her family.

The District Court in Warsaw did not, however, rule that they should be forced to pay her 100,000 zlotys (£19,500), as her lawyers had demanded.

The case has been closely watched because it is expected to set an important precedent for independent Holocaust research.

The ruling can be appealed against, however.

At stake in the case was Polish national pride, according to the plaintiffs, and according to the defendants, the future independence of Holocaust research.

Judge Ewa Jonczyk ruled that the scholars, Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski, must make a written apology to Ms Leszczynska for “providing inaccurate information” that her late uncle, Edward Malinowski, robbed a Jewish woman during the war and contributed to the death of Jews hiding in a forest in Malinowo in 1943, when Poland was under German occupation.

They were also ordered to apologise for “violating his honour”.

The judge drew attention to the discrepancies in the evidence, given at different times, by the Jewish woman whose evidence was the basis of the description of Mr Malinowski’s behaviour.

It ordered Ms Engelking and Mr Grabowski to issue a written apology to Ms Leszczynska for having disseminated inaccurate information about her uncle.

Mr Malinowski was acquitted in a communist court in 1950 of being an accomplice to the killing by Germans of 18 Jews in a forest near the village of Malinowo in 1943 in German-occupied Poland.

He is mentioned in a brief passage of a 1,600-page historical work, Night Without End: The Fate Of Jews In Selected Counties Of Occupied Poland, which was co-edited by Mr Grabowski and Ms Engelking.

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They researched and wrote parts of it, along with other researchers.

Ms Leszczynska has been backed by the Polish League Against Defamation, a group that fights harmful and untruthful depictions of Poland.

Mr Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian history professor at the University of Ottawa, and Ms Engelking, founder and director of the Polish Centre for Holocaust Research in Warsaw, are among Poland’s most prominent Holocaust researchers.

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