Holocaust scholars ordered to apologize in Polish libel case

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Copies of "Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland", are shown for sale in a bookstore at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday Feb. 9, 2021. A court in Warsaw ruled Tuesday that the two-volume work's editors must apologize to a woman who claimed her deceased uncle had been slandered in the book, which suggested he helped kill Jews during World War II. The case was watched as a test case for the future of independent Holocaust research in Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – A court in Warsaw ruled Tuesday that two prominent Holocaust researchers must apologize to a woman who claimed her deceased uncle had been slandered in a historical work, citing alleged inaccuracies that suggested the Polish man helped kill Jews during World War II.

Lawyers for 81-year-old Filomena Leszczynska argued that the scholars had unfairly harmed her good name and that of her family, violating the honor of the uncle. The family says he saved Jews during the German occupation of Poland during World War II.

The District Court in Warsaw did not, however, rule that they should be forced to pay her 100,000 zlotys ($27,000), as her lawyers had demanded.

The case has been closely watched because it was expected to set a precedent in the field of Holocaust research. The ruling was not final, however, and Barbara Engelking, the author of the passage in question, said her side planned to appeal.

At stake in the case was Polish national pride, according to the plaintiffs, and according to the defendants, the future independent research into an extremely sensitive issue.

Judge Ewa Jonczyk ruled that the scholars, Engelking and Jan Grabowski, must make a written apology to Leszczynska for “providing inaccurate information” about her uncle, Edward Malinowski. He was described in a Holocaust survivor's testimony saying he robbed her during the war and contributed to the death of 18 Jews hiding in a forest near the village of Malinowo.

The judge stressed discrepancies in the testimony, given at different times, by the Jewish woman whose testimony was the basis of the description of Malinowski's behavior.

Malinowski was acquitted in a communist court in 1950 of being an accomplice to the 1943 killing by Germans of the group of Jews.