In an open letter to the President of the Polish Republic, the Academic Council of the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University has expressed its deep concern about recent developments that threaten to stifle free expression and objective historical investigation in Poland. A new law is pending in the Polish parliament that would impose five-year jail sentences on people who “blame the Polish nation for Nazi or Stalinist crimes.” In a related development, the Polish Chancellery has initiated a procedure to strip Dr. Jan T. Gross, professor of history at Princeton University and one of the leading scholars of modern Polish history and the Holocaust, of the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit, awarded to Professor Gross in 1996 for his public opposition to the communist regime in Poland. The symbolic gesture against Professor Gross and, more significantly, the impending legislation constitute a government- initiated attack on intellectual inquiry and on the right to speak uncomfortable truths about the past. They represent a potentially staggering reversal of Poland’s trajectory of open engagement with its history. The Council strongly condemns these actions as attack on all of us as academics and a deep threat to our colleagues in Poland and other countries in the region. The Council calls on the Polish President and parliament to reject both the misguided attempt to rescind the Knight’s Cross and the repressive bill that would imperil free speech.
The full letter is available here.