‘Mayhem and chaos’: Polish lawmaker violently attacks speakers on country’s role in the Holocaust

“This act of vandalism is more than an ugly attack on an internationally renowned scholar. It is an attack on academic freedom, on the historical record, and on Holocaust remembrance.”

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

Renowned Polish-Canadian historian Jan Grabowski, whose research into Poland’s complicity during the Holocaust has infuriated Polish leaders, was the victim of assault on Tuesday in Warsaw, Yad Vashem said in a press release the following day.

During a lecture by Grabowski, a member of the Polish parliament smashed a microphone on the speaker’s podium and tried to rip out the sound system in order to prevent him from lecturing at the German Historical Institute.

The press release did not mention the lawmaker by name, but a social media post identified him as Grzegorz Braun.

The topic of the lecture. Grabowski said, was “Poland’s (growing) problem with the history of the Holocaust. The lecture, hosted by the German Historical Institute and the Department of History at the University of Warsaw shall be given in Polish.”

Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan issued a statement, saying that the “incident represents a new low in attempts to stifle discussion about the complicity of Poles in the persecution and murder of their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust.

“This act of vandalism is more than an ugly attack on an internationally renowned scholar. It is an attack on academic freedom, on the historical record, and on Holocaust remembrance,” Dayan said.

In 2018, Poland passed a law banning the phrase “Polish death camp,” in an apparent effort to absolve itself of complicity with the Nazis. The notorious Auschwitz death camp, for example, was located in Poland and administered by locals. Even after the end of World War 2, antisemitism was rampant in the country.

Best known among Polish anti-Semitic crimes in the immediate postwar years was the 1946 pogrom in the town of Kielce, during which 42 Jews were murdered.

Holocaust experts say that while Poland is “technically correct” when they say the concentration camps  were German, the legislation is being exploited in an attempt to clear Poles of the murder of so many Jews.

Grabowski, a leading historian, has refused to whitewash the facts.

In February 2021, a Polish court ruled against Profs. Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, both leading scholars, saying they must apologize for their research that “violated the honor” of Edward Malinowski, a Polish civilian alleged to have assisted in the capture and killing of Jews hiding in a forest near Malinowo in northeastern Poland. Jewish leaders slammed the ruling.

‘Some people exchanged punches’

Grabowski was apparently not the only victim of violence.

Although not mentioned in the Yad Vashem Press release, Aleksander Milchtach Slaw, a senior jounalist at Radio Shalom in Copenhagen, described the outrageous attack in a Facebook post tagging Grabowski, which included photos of the incident.

“Just a few words to let you know that my lecture at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw has been interrupted by Polish radical right-wing MP Grzegorz Braun. Ten minutes into the lecture, Braun stood up, wrestled the microphone away from me, repeatedly crushed it against the podium, and later destroyed the loudspeakers. Several of his supporters shielded him. Police showed up after some time, but they were powerless to remove him because Braun quoted his MP immunity,” Slaw wrote.

“It was mayhem and chaos. Some people exchanged punches. I have never seen anything like it in my long academic career. I was scheduled to talk about the rising wave of fascism in Poland. Now, I don’t have to – a few pictures will do the job. I must say, I am still shaken. It is not every day that you stare fascism straight in the eye. In Poland, we have transitioned to another stage: violence,” Slaw concluded.