No funding for academics "who insult Poles, the greatest victims of … – Notes From Poland

Apr 25, 2023 | Education, History, Politics
Poland’s minister of education and science, Przemysław Czarnek, has announced that he will not approve funding for academics who “insult Poles”, whom he described as “the greatest victims of World War II”.
The remarks come amid continued debate over claims last week by a leading Polish Holocaust scholar, Barbara Engelking, that Poles did little to help Jews during the war. She is the head of a research institute that is part of the Polish Academic of Sciences (PAN), a state body funded by the government.
Engelking’s comments have been condemned by figures from Poland’s conservative government, including the prime minister. The broadcasting regulator has launched an investigation into the TV station that aired her remarks.
One politician from the ruling camp announced on Sunday that he was reporting the academic to prosecutors for “insulting the Polish nation”, a crime in Poland that carries a prison sentence of up to three years.
An MEP from Poland's ruling party is filing a request for Holocaust scholar Barbara Engelking to be prosecuted for insulting the Polish nation – a crime carrying a prison sentence of up to 3 years – for saying that Poles did little to help Jews in the war
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) April 24, 2023

Speaking about the controversy yesterday on state broadcaster TVP, Czarnek said that, while he “does not intend to influence staffing policies at the Institute of Sociology at PAN, I will be reviewing financial decisions, because I will not finance on a larger scale an institute that supports the kind of people who insult Poles”.
The minister, who oversees both schools and universities, was asked about those remarks during an interview this morning with RMF FM, and he confirmed that: “I will not make positive [funding] decisions in relation to academics who constantly insult Poles. I will not allow Poles to be insulted.”
Asked if he should be making funding decisions based on whether or not he liked particular research, Czarnek said: “Offending Poles and the Polish nation – the greatest victim of World War II – is not the role of Polish academics supported by state money. I will not give money for this.”
🎥Minister @CzarnekP (@MEIN_GOV_PL) w #RozmowaRMF: Zrewiduję decyzje finansowe w stosunku do Instytutu Socjologii PAN. Polacy dzwonią do mnie, że sobie nie życzą, żeby naukowcy ich obrażali @RMF24pl
— RozmowaRMF (@Rozmowa_RMF) April 25, 2023

During the Second World War, around six million Polish citizens died, representing 17% of the pre-war population. That was the highest proportional losses of any country during the war.
Around half of those deaths were Polish Jews. During the war, some 90% of Poland’s Jews were killed compared to around 10% of the non-Jewish population. Overall, around six million Jews of all nationalities were killed in the Holocaust.
During his interview with RMF, Czarnek argued that Engelking’s remarks were in particular an insult towards those Poles who helped Jews during the Holocaust.
Among the roughly 28,000 people honoured by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to help Jews, there are more Poles (over 7,000) than any other national group.
A Polish family killed by German officers for sheltering Jews have been recognised as martyrs by the pope, putting them on the path to sainthood
Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their six children were executed in 1944 along with the eight Jews they had hidden
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 19, 2022

However, in an article published today, a leading Polish-Jewish figure, journalist Konstanty Gebert, argued that, while the government claims it is defending the good name of the Polish Righteous, it is actually sullying it.
“The lie that saving Jews during the war was the norm in Poland implies that it was no big deal,” wrote Gebert for the Kultura Liberanla weekly. “It insults the over 7,000 [Polish] Righteous” who risked their lives to help, he argued.
Gebert likened the Polish government’s “historical policy”, which focuses on promoting the image of Poles as heroes and victims during the war, to that pursued by Russia.
— Łukasz Pawłowski (@LukPawlowski) April 25, 2023

Main image credit: MEiN (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.
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Agnieszka Wądołowska is managing editor of Notes from Poland. She has previously worked for and and contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, Wysokie Obcasy, Duży Format, Midrasz and Kultura Liberalna”
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Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeThe Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.
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Stanley Bill is the founder and editor-at-large of Notes from Poland.
He is also Senior Lecturer in Polish Studies and Director of the Polish Studies Programme at the University of Cambridge, where he works on Polish culture, politics and history.
Stanley has spent more than ten years living in Poland, mostly based in Kraków and Bielsko-Biała. He founded Notes from Poland in 2014 as a blog dedicated to personal impressions, cultural analysis and political commentary. He is committed to the promotion of deeper knowledge and understanding of Poland.
He is the Chair of the Board of the Notes from Poland Foundation.
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