The subject of the interview was the fate of Jewish civilians during the uprising in the ghetto and later, as presented in the exhibition "A Sea of Fire Around Us" at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the concept of which was created by Prof. Engelking. The exhibition shows the tragedy of these fates and the heroism of the silent resistance of Jewish women and men, who recorded their experiences in hiding places and bunkers; their words often being the only trace left of them.
In preserved diaries, accounts, and memories, one can find the entire spectrum of what Jews had to face trying to survive in hiding in occupied Warsaw: fear and hope, a sense of loneliness and the formation of supportive groups, passivity and agency. There are also mentions of reluctance, lack of help, blackmail, betrayal, death at the hands of the Germans, and help, friendship, and rescue provided by other Jews and Poles.
It was about all these aspects of Jewish fate during World War II, analyzed for years by Holocaust researchers, that Prof. Engelking spoke in the interview.
However, in public statements by government representatives, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Minister Przemysław Czarnek, Prof. Engelking was attacked for presenting "unauthorized opinions" and "pseudo-historical statements" that are not supported by facts. This is especially concerning the scale of Polish help provided to Jews and the scale of phenomena such as anti-Semitism, blackmail, and denunciation.
The scientific facts presented by Prof. Engelking were described as "obscuring the truth," "lying," "anti-Polish narrative," and "insulting Poles." Professor Engelking was also accused of having made comments with a "racist character" in her previous statements.
Following these comments, Prof. Engelking was also attacked by pro-government media, including public media, where she was labeled as a "Pole-eater," and the interview was described as "inciting against Poles."
We firmly condemn political and ideological attempts to question scientific findings. Claiming that saving Jews was a common attitude among Poles is precisely the obscuring of the truth by government representatives; an opinion, not a fact consistent with historical knowledge, resulting from years of interdisciplinary research projects (including those conducted by the Institute of National Remembrance). This also diminishes the heroism of the Righteous who helped Jews, especially those who lost their lives at the hands of the Germans for doing so.
We also remind you that politicizing history and attempts to falsify it, combined with inspiring a wave of hatred, are precisely the dangers that Marian Turski rightly warned against in his speech delivered during the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The team of the Center for Research on the Extermination of Jews IFiS PAN:
Agnieszka Haska, Marta Janczewska, Jacek Leociak, Dariusz Libionka, Justyna Majewska, Małgorzata Melchior (prof. em.), Karolina Panz, Jakub Petelewicz, Alina Skibińska, Dagmara Swałtek-Niewińska, Andrzej Żbikowski (collaborator)
Translation from the post: Burza po słowach prof. Barbary Engelking w TVN24. Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów wydało oświadczenie - Wiadomości (onet.pl)