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The case concerns the authors of the book "Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland," a two-volume historical study tracing the fate of Jews who went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. It consists of detailed and extensive accounts of thousands of cases, only a few of which present the attitudes of Poles in a positive light. One such case has been the subject of the libel trial.
Officially, the case against the authors of the book had been brought by the 80-year-old Filomena Leszczyńska from the village of Malinowo in eastern Poland. She accused the researchers of "defaming the memory" of her late uncle Edward Malinowski, who was a village elder in Malinowo during the war. Ms Leszczyńska demanded an apology, including a statement by the authors’ that the entire purpose of their book has been to accuse Poles of murdering Jews.
The mastermind behind the lawsuit and an attempt to discredit the Holocaust scholars was in fact Mr Maciej Świrski- founder of the Polish League Against Defamation, a right-wing NGO with close ties to the government. After the book’s publication, he reached out to Ms Leszczyńska, persuaded her to file a lawsuit, and paid the lawyers. He has actively participated in the lawsuit process and commented on each of its steps in government-friendly media.
In February 2021, the District Court in Warsaw found professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski guilty. The scholars were ordered to post a statement on the website of the Polish Centre for Holocaust Research and apologize to Filomena Leszczyńska for "violating the honor" of her late uncle Edward Malinowski by having provided "inaccurate information" about his betrayal of Jews to Nazi Germans in their book. Additionally, the Holocaust researchers were ordered to send a letter of apology to Ms Leszczyńska. The section describing Mr Malinowski’s case was supposed to be changed in the next editions of the book.
The court dismissed the plaintiff’s demand for a compensation of PLN 100.000. It also proposed its own version of the apology. Other demands included in the lawsuit asked the historians to admit that they have intentionally provided counterfactual information in their book because they wanted to accuse Polish citizens of complicity in the German mass murder of Jews.
The historians appealed the verdict, and on Monday, the appellate court in Warsaw decided to dismiss the libel case, saying that "it is not the task of a court to interfere in academic research". Details of the justification will be forthcoming.
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