Historical revisionist honoured by Polish Ministry of Education

By Gerry Gable

This article is contributed by Jacob Fleming, Searchlight’s Polish correspondence

At the end of September, Tomasz Panfil, who is employed by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), wrote an article for Gazeta Polska, a newspaper owned by Law And Justice societies. He claimed that after the German aggression against Poland in 1939, the situation of the Jews was not too bad. He accepted that the Germans made Jews wear armbands with the Star of David and forced them to work as semi-slaves and confined them in ghettos, but they allowed the Jews to have their own self-government – the Judenrats. In contrast he claimed the Polish people did not have their own self-government. Recently Panfil received the Medal of Commission of National Education.

His statement was criticised by historians of Holocaust and even his employer distanced itself from his words. But this is not first scandal in his career. At the same time the media had questioned his expertise about Nazi symbols used by a far-right organisation on its website, banned on the grounds of propagating fascism which is officially illegal in Poland.

Panfil claimed that the swastika has many meanings and nobody can claim that it is always used as a Nazi symbol. And the symbol of a white fist with the slogan “Blood & Honour – Against Red Democracy” refers to victims of communist repression. Connecting the NSDAP with the far right was in his opinion impossible because the NSDAP was a left wing party.

The IPN is a public institution responsible for the investigation of crimes against Polish citizens in World War II and the communist period, education and historical research projects. But it is often used as a political weapon by right-wing societies that have controlled the IPN for many years. The new president of IPN, Jarosław Szarek, is also a revisionist of the Jedwabne pogrom history.

On 10 July 1941, during the German occupation of Poland, 340 Polish Jews of all ages from Jedwabne were killed when their Polish neighbours locked them in a barn and set it on fire. Szarek belongs to a tendency among Polish revisionists who claim that Jews from Jedwabne were killed by German troops or the Waffen SS. The Minister of National Education, Anna Zalewska, who honoured Panfil, is also a follower of Szarek’s opinions on Jedwabne.

Zalewska is one of the most controversial members of the Polish government because of her reorganization of the school system from 7-12 (primary school), 13-15 (secondary school) and 16-19 (high school), into 7-14 (primary school) with 15-19 (high school) in the current school year.