Swiss Press Council ignores anti-Polish narrative of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Swiss Press Council ignores anti-Polish narrative of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung

In a disgraceful decision of March 27, 2020, the Swiss Press Council (Presserat) decided to reject a complaint against an anti-Polish lampoon entitled “We do not tolerate such a picture of history – a Polish campaign against Holocaust research” that appeared in the leading Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) on March 28, 2019. The NZZ’s author, Joseph Croitoru, spread lies about WW2-era Poland and falsely smeared Polish participants of the conference “The New Polish School of the Holocaust History” that took place at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris on February 21-22, 2019. A few days after his story was published in the NZZ, a complaint was filed with the Presserat.

 April 6, 2020 by Marek Błażejak*

EHESS, a prestigious French grands établissements, offers a stage for Naziwashing

The conference “The New Polish School of the Holocaust History” at EHESS was attended by scholars from France, Poland, Canada and the USA. However, they almost unbelievably failed to mention the Nazi German war crimes. They also didn’t mention the Germany-compliant French Vichy regime, which sent thousands of Jews to Auschwitz or Treblinka. They didn’t present French companies that actively collaborated with the German war industry like Établissements Kuhlmann (business partner of the IG Farben) or the French Brigade Spéciale, which tracked down resistance fighters and other enemies of the Nazi regime.

Instead they accused ethnic Poles of a massive responsibility for the Holocaust. Dr. Sidi N’Diaye, a postdoctoral fellow of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, compared ethnic Poles to Hutu killing Tutsi during genocide in Rwanda. Prof. Annette Wieviorka from EHESS stated that the Holocaust was possible thanks to centuries-old Polish anti-Semitism, actively supported by the Catholic Church. Dr. Tal Bruttmann, a French historian dealing with the Vichy regime didn’t mention Vichy with even a single word. Instead, he suggested that the name of the Auschwitz Museum should be changed to the Museum of Oświęcim suggesting that Poles were complicit in the Holocaust. Valentin Behr criticized the Polish historian and then Senator Prof. Jan Żaryn for his fight against the historically false phrase “Polish camps” in respect to death and concentration camps set up and administered by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.

Prof. Jacek Leociak claimed in his exalted lecture, among others, that the Polish authorities destroy historical records and replace them with counterfeits (“One has to destroy [in Poland] historical relations, certificates and documents deposited in archives and replace them with counterfeits. One has to tell the surviving victims and witnesses that they did not see what they saw. One has to dig up the remains of Jewish victims from anonymous graves scattered around Poland and put stones there”). Needless to say, that Leociak’s words have nothing to do with the scientific approach to the Holocaust in Poland.

Dr. Sidi N’Diaye, a postdoctoral fellow of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, compared ethnic Poles to Hutu killing Tutsi during the genocide in Rwanda

Among the scholars of the so-called “New Polish school of the Holocaust History” in Paris was also its main initiator Prof. Jan Gross, a professor emeritus of the Princeton University, whose research method is based on making controversial assumptions first, then selectively choosing and distorting historical sources, and finally fitting them to his theses. He is known for using testimonies of Poles obtained during torture by communist interrogators during the post-war occupation of Poland by the Soviet Union. Historians such as Prof. Richard Lukas, Prof. Aleksander Rossini and Prof. Marek Chodakiewicz have pointed out on many occasions that Gross did not even visit the essential German or Belorussian archives. Rossino stated, among others, that: “Gross’ failure to examine German documentary sources fundamentally flawed his depiction of the events. The result was a skewed history that did not investigate SS operations in the region (of Jedwabne) or German interaction with the Polish population.”

The Polish historians who were so viciously attacked by the scholars at the EHESS event were not invited to Paris. Polish participants of the conference were not allowed to ask questions during the Q & A sessions. Offended by some lecturers and silenced by the organizers, a few Poles did voice occasional boos, for instance during the extremely offensive lecture of Leociak but, unlike the NZZ has claimed, there was no disruption of the conference. On the other hand, some French participants showed gestures of cutting-off the head towards the Polish audience.

Joseph Coitoru, a journalist with an anti-Polish agenda

Joseph Croitoru, a Germany-based historian and journalist born in Haifa, Israel, regularly has written a series of anti-Polish diatribes in the NZZ and the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He called the conference in Paris a gathering of internationally renowned Holocaust researchers who were disturbed and verbally attacked by “Polish nationalists” and representatives of the Polish state. Quoting the newest book of one of the “prominent” researchers, Prof. Jan Grabowski from the Ottawa University (“Night without an End: Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland”), Croitoru stated that: “Around 200,000 Polish fugitive Jews are believed to have either been murdered by Poles or denounced and handed over to the German occupiers and thus sent to their certain death.” Actually, Grabowski nowhere mentions this number in his newest book. He mentioned it on other occasions but he was caught red-handed in February 2018 by the then Polish ambassador to Switzerland Jakub Kumoch. Grabowski told his fake number of 200,000 Jews allegedly killed by Poles to a journalist of “Times of Israel”, Amanda Borschel-Dan. Kumoch found out that Grabowski misquoted  another Polish-Jewish scholar Szymon Datner who has carried out research about fugitive Jews in WW2 occupied Poland. Datner, unlike Grabowski, stated the following: “In one of my works, (Forest of the Righteous) I estimated the number of surviving Jews – chiefly thanks to assistance provided by Polish residents – at approximately 100,000. According to further estimates, another 100,000 people were seized by Nazi authorities and murdered.” A huge difference, in fact, but totally unimportant to Croitoru and the NZZ! In a statement sent to the Presserat by the chief of NZZ’s foreign news desk Peter Rásonyi, one can read “In the present context, it does not matter whether the claim that Poland killed 200,000 Jews is correct. The author does not claim this himself, but rather correctly repeats the claims of a historian, who in turn is being attacked by the Polish side because of this thesis.” So, for one of the oldest and most prominent Swiss newspapers the truth doesn’t matter! Wouldn’t it also matter, if an NZZ contributor quoted David Irving’s famous statement “Auschwitz was like a Disneyland?” Rásonyi would lose his job, if such a quote appeared in his newspaper.

Professor Grabowski was caught red-handed in February 2018 when he misquoted the Polish-Jewish historian Szymon Datner and delivered the fake number of 200,000 Jews allegedly killed by Poles to a journalist of “Times of Israel,” Amanda Borschel-Dan

There are many inaccuracies in the article of Croitoru. He stated, among others, that Prof. Barbara Engelking took part in the conference at EHESS, although she did not attend it; that EHESS didn’t record the event, although they did. He regards the scholars who clearly distort World War II history as “distinguished Holocaust researchers;” he describes Jan Gross as a historian, although he is only a sociologist. He claims that Grabowski was sued for his fake number of 200,000 “Jews killed by Poles,” although he has never been sued for that. He also claims that the Polish minister of education Jaroslaw Gowin regretted in a letter to the French minister of education Frédérique Vidal the disruptions of the conference, although he only wrote that he doesn’t have any evidence of disruptions.

Croitoru also seriously offended the Polish people by claiming that “the victim narrative cultivated by the Polish PiS government remains diametrically in contrast to the findings on the active participation of Poles – in many cases on their own initiative – in the murder of the Jews.” Actually, Poland lost 6 million citizens during the war and the “victim narrative” had been cultivated by all Polish governments after the war, and not the PiS government only. Don’t the French and British governments cultivate the victim-theme of German occupation, and their own military who fell during the war? 

Croitoru stated in a biased manner that “members of the Polish underground killed Jews.” In fact, the Polish government-in-exile ordered executions of betrayers of Jews. Croitoru smears the Polish people as murderers of Jews who robbed the Jewish property. Actually, according to the Israeli War Crimes Commission, only 0.1% of Poles collaborated with Nazi Germans. Therefore, 99.9% did not! Also, other historians like Andrew Kornbluth from the prestigious University of California in Berkley estimate that there were 28,000-30,000 “active Polish collaborators” from a pre-war population of about 30 million (see “Political and Transitional Justice in Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union from the 1930s to the 1950s, by Magnus Brechtken, Władysław Bułhak and Jürgen Zarusky, 2019).

The NZZ author also whitewashed Nazi Germany by stating that for Jews in Poland “the danger of being discovered loomed far more from the Polish than from the German side.” So according to the dishonest NZZ journalist, Germans were innocent as a lamb and Poles were devils! Does Croitoru expect Poles to keep silent when  Polish history is being so badly distorted?

It is also not true that Poles harassed EHESS before the onset of the conference. Actually, Poles from all over the world expressed a concern over the strongly biased and anti-Polish format of the event in Paris. They asked in an open letter to the head of the French school Christophe Prochasson to invite also the representatives of Polish historical institutes like the Auschwitz Museum, Institute for National Remembrance or Pilecki Institute. The letter can be seen here. There was no harassment in it at all, and unlike Croitoru claims, there has been no legal action from EHESS against Poles participating in the conference to date.

The head of the French school EHESS, Christophe Prochasson (on the left), totally ignored the concerns of Poles from around the world and he reduced the conference in Paris to a pseudo-scientific farce. He later falsely referred to the Polish participants as anti-Semites.

Presserat, an organization which ignores its own rules

According to the Guideline 1.1 of the Presserat “Search for Truth”: “The search for truth represents the starting point of information activity. It requires the observance of available and accessible data, the respect for the integrity of documents (text, sound and images), the review and the possible correction. However, the Presserat excluded in its verdict dated March 27, 2020 any violation of the Guideline 1.1! It also didn’t take into account the fact that the Polish participants of the conference were offended. According to the Presserat, there was no violation of the Guideline 8 “Respect for human dignity,” because the Polish participants are not mentioned by name. However, the guideline states: “Information activities must be based on respect for human dignity. It must be constantly weighed against the public’s right to information. This applies both to the people directly affected or touched and to the general public.” Are the Polish participants offended by EHESS, NZZ and Croitoru not a part of the general public?

Croitoru is totally wrong and the Presserat ignores in a shocking way his anti-historical narrative.  The Swiss Press Council, an organization which is expected to be a guardian of journalistic ethics, puts itself in the position of a defender of fake news, offender of Poland’s dignity and an organization which allows distortion of the history of the Second World War!


* Marek Błażejak is a former member of the Polish Media Issues group. Unlike the NZZ’s author, he attended the conference in Paris.

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