The Steering Committee of the Copernicus Center for Polish Studies at the University of Michigan condemns the February 10, 2021 ruling of the Warsaw District Court demanding an "apology" from Professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski in a libel case widely regarded as an effort by the country's ruling party and allied civic organizations to stifle scholarly research on Polish participation in historical injustice, including (but not limited to) Nazi crimes committed on Polish soil against Jews, Roma, and other Poles. We further condemn officials' harassment of Katarzyna Markusz, a journalist subject to police interrogation merely for mentioning the fact of Polish participation in atrocities during the Nazi occupation.
As scholars, we have dedicated ourselves to the investigation and interpretation of Polish history and culture, grounded in evidence and without prejudice. This work has always revealed instances of cowardice as well as heroism, failure in addition to triumph, ugliness alongside great beauty. We regard the use of the civil and criminal courts to adjudicate matters of scholarly debate as a betrayal of the democratic values for which so many Poles have fought, suffered, and often died, and that the Polish government claims to hold dear.
We call on both the Polish government and its allied civil institutions to rededicate themselves to fundamental principles of intellectual freedom, informed debate, and the rigorous, sober assessment of the past, free from personal or political interests.