A Polish-born Princeton professor is fighting a charge of national insult for claiming that during World War II, the Polish people killed more Jews than Germans. Professor Jan Tomasz Gross was questioned for five hours by a Polish prosecutor.
“I told him straight that I was not trying to insult the Polish nation. I was trying to raise awareness about the problem of refugees in Europe. I am just telling the truth and the truth sometimes has a shocking effect on people who are not aware of what the truth is,” Gross said.
If he is charged, Gross could be facing a jail sentence in Poland of up to three years.
Last September, Gross had an article published in the Project Syndicate. Known as the world’s opinion page, the Project Syndicate “produces and delivers original, high-quality commentaries to a global audience” according to its mission statement. It features exclusive contributions from political leaders, scholars, business leaders, and civic activists from around the world. The publication’s membership includes nearly 500 media outlets in more than 150 countries, more than half of which receive commentaries free or at a subsidized rate. In his piece, Gross argued that Poland’s opposition to accepting asylum-seekers is “heartless,” and could actually stem from the country’s “murderous past.”
“Consider the Poles, who, deservedly proud of their society’s anti-Nazi resistance, actually killed more Jews than Germans during the war,” Gross wrote in the article. His claims are completely at odds with the widespread view of heroic Polish resistance to the Nazi occupation, and Polish citizens filed complaints about Gross’s statements.
A prosecutor in Katowice, Poland, questioned the American professor for five hours trying to determine his guilt on the national insult charge. Gross told the Associated Press that he isn’t aware yet whether or not he will be charged with an offense. Quite apart from the criminal charge, due to the published article’s content, Polish President Andrzej Duda is considering stripping Professor Gross of an Order of Merit he received in 1996.
“The claim that Poles killed more Jews than Germans could be really right – and this is shocking news for traditional thinking about Polish heroism during the war. [It] reveals this dimension of the Polish war experience which was always covered, hidden and suppressed,” Jacek Leociak, a historian with the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, told Associated Press.
The Holocaust in Poland remains very controversial to this day in the country and remains a sensitive issue. It is technically a crime to state as the professor did that Poles were complicit in the Holocaust.