Commenting on a controversial new law making it illegal to suggest that the Polish state was complicit in the Nazi holocaust, Dr Charles Turner, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, says:
'After 1989 Poland welcomed the efforts of historians from many countries to develop a more nuanced and fair-minded approach to the terrible events of the war. On the one hand, the truth about Polish suffering at the hands of both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union was confronted. On the other, considerable efforts were made to deepen our knowledge of the holocaust, the fruits of which were improvements to the Auschwitz Museum, its exhibition spaces and tours, and a revival of interest in the historic role of Jewish culture in Poland.
"Politicians from all sides endorsed this reckoning with the past. More recently these efforts have been undermined by political partisanship: the international character of the new World War II Museum in Gdansk has been diluted, causing distinguished international historians to turn their back on it; and now a law is proposed that would ban the use of certain phrases, such as 'Polish death camps', in historical writing and journalism, on the grounds of defamation.
"The Polish government may argue that both France and Germany have comparable laws relating to such matters, though these are directed at phrases that defame others. The alarm caused in the Polish case arises from the fact that the court of scholarly opinion on these matters is already robust and well able to marginalise the voices that might make use of such phrases."
2 February 2018
Media Relations Manager