Silencing history and memory in the Christ of Europe

Welcome to Digging Up Ancient Aliens. This is the podcast where we examine strange claims about alternative history and ancient aliens in popular media. Do their claims hold water to an archeologist, or are there better explanations out there?

We are now on episode 64, and I am Fredrik, your guide into the world of pseudo-archaeology. This time, we are going to do something a little bit different. We will do a case study of a country where the government has started to promote its preferred historical narrative. While some might not call that alternative history or pseudo-history, I would argue that this is overlapping. So we will look at Poland and its memory laws, how the government is policing museums, and trying to silence research on Polish complicity in the Holocaust. We will also look at Polish history to see how it came to be and what national memory they draw from.

We will look at how they create emotionally triggering museums while leaving out the parts of history that put Poland in a bad light. We will see how PiS, the ruling party, is trying to silence museum directors and professors who don't follow the party line. In the past, we have discussed how governments in Bosnia and Indonesia have used state funds to promote psuedoscience. This isn't too far off, just fewer aliens and lost civilizations. But it is still essential to keep our eyes on this pseudo-history in times like this. This may also be the first episode that might get me in serious legal trouble.

Remember that you can find sources, resources, and reading suggestions on our website, There, you also find contact info if you notice any mistakes or have any suggestions. And if you like the podcast, I would appreciate it if you left one of those fancy five-star reviews I've heard so much about.

Now that we have finished our preparations, let's dig into the episode.

In this episode:

Polish museums and alternative history

Polands participation

The table is set

Christ of Europe

Silencing memories

Sources, resources and further reading suggestions

Polish museums and alternative history

On the third floor of a small museum in the little town of Elbląg , we step into a wartorn landscape. In the background, we hear ominous music; a haze of bullets approaches us like warring messages of death. There's crying somewhere in the background, the sound of screeching metal echoing in the hall. In the first text, we meet as we step into this world of despair, goes as follows:

"Kto przekroczy moje mury, stanie się moimi murami. Kto porozmawia, kto dotknie, może nawet zobaczy moich dawnych mieszkańców, nie zapomni ich, nie zapomni mnie. Ja to teren niezamieszkały, miejsce ludne, nie mam granic, rozrastam się, nie jestem już Miasto, jestem niekończącą się Opowieść.

Włóż we mnie rękę, a zobaczysz, jak po drugiej stronie murów załamują się lustra. Załamują się twarze. Śmiejący się ludzie, płaczący, zdziwieni, zmęczeni, ludzie, całe węże, strumienie, pochody, Śpiew i ujadanie, a nawet krew. Ale krew to o wiele za mało, aby zrozumieć.

Teraz kolej na ciebie, zatem zapraszam cię. Przechodniu? Przypadkowy przyjezdny? Mój mieszkaniec? Ciało moje?

Zaczynasz od momentu mojego upadku."

"Whoever crosses my walls becomes my walls. Whoever speaks about or touches the remains might see my former inhabitants and will not forget them, will not forget me. I am an uninhabited land, a populated place; I have no borders; I am ever expanding and no longer just a City; I am an endless Story.

Place your hand in mine, and I will show you the other side of the walls of broken mirrors—broken faces—where people are laughing, crying, surprised, and tired. Where people form a snake who streams in processions, Singing and barking, where we only now see blood. But from only blood, we can't fully understand.

Now it's your turn, and I invite you to consider who you are. Are you a passerby? A random traveler? My inhabitant? My body?

You stand at the moment of my downfall."

We then move through history, where Poland is repeatedly the victim of aggression from its neighbors. The Vikings came and settled in Poland, as did the Teutonic Knights and the Mongols, and the Swedish Deluge washed over the nation. The partition of Poland between Austria, Russia, and Prussia, the Napoleonic Wars, World War I, and, of course, World War II. While we meet a war-torn nation conquered by others, the Polish inhabitants are painted as victims. But while we have this notion of victimhood, the Polish people are portrayed as being prepared to die on their feet.

But why are we talking about this? While it's fun to poke holes in the Ancient Alien theory and Atlantis claims, we must keep an eye on the alternative history that's kind of going under the radar. Alternative history has unfortunately snuck into politics, something we have seen in both Bosnia and Indonesia and their state-sponsored pyramid hunts; there are more nefarious alternative histories that are being state-sponsored. Poland is an excellent example of this; they both have memory laws and a historical narrative set by the state. To fully understand all of this, we need to look at several things: Polish history, the history being promoted today, and the memory laws themselves. So, in front of us, we have a case study on how alternative history can be more than aliens and even worse. But let's get back into the history museum of Elblag.

A floor down in the museum, we encounter another immersive exhibition. This time, we start the journey during World War II and get to experience life in Elbląg, how the Polish resistance was massacred and put in camps. We see apartments ravaged by German soldiers, and we get later to experience life under the thumb of the Soviets behind the iron curtains.

Street reconstructed from Gdansk set before WWII

A reconstructed street from Gdansk ca 1940. Photo Fredrik Trusohamn

The museum does an excellent job of immersing the visitor in a historical narrative. But if you lack a connection to Poland, you might get a whiff of rat here. You notice it a bit more clearly if you first start at the exhibition about the Viking settlement Truso or, as it is known today, Janów Pomorski. This exhibition offers texts and explanations in both Polish and English. But these two exhibitions I've told you about are solely in Polish. The target audience is the Polish adults and schoolchildren visiting the museum.

appartment bombed and shot by Nazi soldiers

Part of the exhibition showing an apartment after the German raids. Photo Fredrik Trusohamn

This type of highly emotional history narrative is not some sort of isolated occurrence here in Elbląg. As Rūta Kazlauskaitė points out in a paper, this trend has been going on for almost 20 years. While some museums have gone for a more immersive experience, there are also examples of museums that are trying to have a middle route. One example of this is " The Museum of the Second World War " in Gdansk. While having a more, maybe not sterile, but traditional exhibition with artifacts and objects on display. There are also these immersive elements. You can walk down a street in 1941 where Jews are not allowed into stores. In another section of the museum, you walk through a bit of Gdansk bombed to pieces with tanks going straight through the smoldering ruins. What impressed me with this museum when visiting was the fact they told the story of Nanking and the Ianfu , or the sexual slaves used by the Japanese army during World War II. I'll return to what we don't find in these museums a bit later. While the World War Museum in Gdansk is a bit more neutral, we still see this narrative of victimhood and isolation. A feeling that was enforced while we exited the museum.

As you made your way out of the museum in the past, you were presented with a video. The video showed the experience of a fugitive in a modern warzone. It was a time to reflect on what you had witnessed at the museum and how those experiences can be found today in the war zones of Syria and Ukraine. Today, you are not able to see this particular video. Instead, a new film has been produced that is more in line with the ruling party's policy, Law and Justice, PiS historical policy. Named "Niezwyciężeni" or "The Unconquered," this video has, as Kazlauskaitė so well describes it: "/.../ emotionalised language and offers insights into the official memory narrative and its associated emotional dynamics that the PiS government seeks to elicit among viewers."

The video was produced by a company called IPNtv and did not work with a sparse budget. The animation itself is stunning, and the English version is narrated by no other than Boromir or Sean Bean, if you prefer. I'd like you to listen to the narration and pay attention to what ideas they promote because we will get back to these.

"Nobody thought the war and its effects would last half a century for Poland. First, Germany attacked. Then, Soviet Russia. We don't give up despite being left on our own. We create an Underground State, complete with a government, an army, schools, and courts. We suffer from two occupations. The Germans murder millions of Polish civilians. The Soviets deport Poles in cattle cars to gulags in the east. They shoot over twenty thousand officers during the Katyn massacre, and hundreds of thousands of Poles are forced into slave labor in the inhuman lands of the Soviet Union.

Our army is reborn, moving west, where our soldiers are already fighting alongside the Allies. We conquer Monte Cassino. Our fighters wreak havoc and fear by air, too. The Germans call us 'black devils' as we crush their resistance.

Paratroopers make their way to occupied Poland to support the Underground State while our counterintelligence acquires secret plans of the enemy. There are Poles who save Jews despite the threat of the death penalty. We create resistance movements, even within the German concentration camps. We are the first to alert the world about the Holocaust, though politics appear to be more important than human lives, and nobody listens to us.

Polish Jews fight the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto without even a chance for success. Our nation came up from the Underground and fought in the Warsaw Uprising. We break the German Enigma code, saving millions of lives. But in exchange for all that we do, we are betrayed. The free world distances itself from us, leaving us behind the Iron Curtain.

Polish flag from Liviv

Polish flag from Liviv. Photo: Fredrik Trusohamn

Despite our scars from the war, we still resist. The Pope gives us strength. Worker strikes spread throughout Poland. The Communists lose. The Iron Curtain falls. The war is over. We prevail. Because we do not beg for freedom. We fight for it."

The video is created to create a feeling with highly emotional language. The idea of Polish victimhood and abandonment is enforced through the video. Themes that are entirely woven into Polish history, as we will see. But note here that the video portrays everything in black and white; the poles are portrayed as heroic and rightful, while the others, the outsiders, are the only ones committing evil acts, either as the aggressors or the spectators.

But where did this type of immersive museum concept start? To find the answer to this, we need to go to Warsaw back in 2004 and the grand opening of the Uprising Museum . The museum was a first of its kind and was created on the initiative of Lech Kaczyński from PiS. Visitors would be able to be submerged in the history and suffering of the Warsaw citizens during the Uprising that took place between the first of August and the second of October 1944. If you have the opportunity, you should definitely go and visit because it really is an experience. Since then, when PiS rose to power, the party has appointed museum directors that follow the party line, and we have seen how these types of exhibitions have become a large part of the Polish museum scene. All follow the party line regarding what version of history the public should be able to encounter.

This historic version PiS promotes is not only limited to museums but also popular media. This enforces the idea of the heroic poles, which are left to fend for themselves against the world, which either doesn't care or is out to harm them. On television, there are shows like "Czas honoru: Powstanie," or "Time for Honour: Uprising." A TV show following Polish youth fighting in the resistance during the Warsaw Uprising. Accompanied by songs like "Dziewcyna z granatem," or in English, "Girls with grenades." All fitting within this preferred historical narration.

Polands participation

To better understand where these ideas originate and to better understand Poland today, we need to have a quick look at the historical past. While we could easily spend a semester trying to cover the history of Poland to better understand the nation today, it's a bit out of the scope of this podcast. As we initially noted, Poland has had several occupations throughout its history. We will focus on a specific period during the 18th century when Poland was split into bits and handed to Russia, Germany, and Austria. Poland's participation seems to be where much of the Polish self-image originates.

In 1569, a union between Poland and Lithuania was created in Lublin, creating the largest state in Europe. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth would last until 1795. How was such a large and robust country divvied up like a cake among siblings? We could spend hours on this subject, and as usual, you can find reading suggestions on the episode page. The SparkNotes version, however, is that leading up to 1772 and the first part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the country had been drained by endless wars with Sweden, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. A large plague outbreak wiped out at least a quarter of the population, weakening the state even more. Add to this, the political structure of Poland-Lithuania. Some historians claim the state was a bit too democratic for its own good, and it's something that can be discussed. While Poland-Lithuania had a king as a ruler, the Sejm limited this power. A two-chambered parliament had the final say on the laws issued by the king and had the power to create rules and policies on their own. While this, to our modern ears, sounds very familiar and not really over-the-top democratic, each member of the Sejm had a liberum veto. The power of standing up and saying "Nie pozwalam" or "I don't allow this." In Sweden, we have a saying that when a meeting is unfruitful, and decisions can't be made, it is "Polsk riksdag," or "Polish government." The expression's origin is this veto right because if a member of the Szlachta nobility stood up and cried "nie pozwalam," the session ended and nullified the passed legislation made that day. Something that, of course, was taken advantage of by other countries who did not want Poland-Lithuania to make certain decisions or try to destabilize the country from the inside.

This is the position the Polish-Lithuanian found itself in. War after war with the surrounding powers, influence on the inside, and uprisings within the Commonwealth. For example, this led to the formation of the Confederation of Bar, a group of nobles who grouped together to defend against outside and inside threats, such as the Koliivshchyna rebellion in modern Ukraine, where Cossacks revolted against the unfair Polish-Lithuanian treatment of them. Culminating in a massacre of Polish nobility and Jews by peasants egged on by the Cossacks. The largest of these slaughters was the Massacre of Uman, where thousands lost their life. How many exactly isn't known; I've seen numbers from 2000 to 12,000. With maybe up to 100,000 during the Koliivshchyna rebellion.

The table is set

The end of the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth is drawing close. There are three countries that will essentially use Poland-Lithuania as a buffet. To the east, we find Catherine the Great, who used power, money, and influence to get a man she thought loyal to her, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, in the position of king of the Commonwealth. Catherine hopes this will develop into this area, becoming a Russian satellite state.

To the West, we have Frederick the Great of Prussia, hungry for access to the Baltic Sea. Frederick saw the weak Poland-Lithuanian state, and while licking his lips, he is said to have compared it to an artichoke he was going to devour leaf by leaf. Close by at the table sits Maria Theresa, empress of the Austrian Empire of the Habsburgs. She is pretty reluctant to agree with the idea of splitting Poland-Lithuania. Still, as the other rules put the napkins in their laps and pick up the cutlery, Maria Theresa joins in. Frederick the Great supposedly said about Maria Theresa, "the more she cries, the more she takes," regarding her changing morality.

Stanislaw August Poniatowski, the king of Poland-Lithuania and Catherine the Great's supposed puppet, saw the writing on the wall. In an attempt to modernize Poland-Lithuania, Poniatowski started trying to get reforms in place. This alarmed the big three, who then decided to take what was in their mind theirs. Even if the Confederation of Bar had won some support among the Polish people for putting down the Koliivshchyna rebellion, the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth was too weak. Almost overnight, a third of the country's area was lost, and more than a third of the population was no longer part of the union.

This shocked the surrounding nations, who rightfully questioned this brazen coupe. To make it seem legitimate, Austria, Prussia, and Russia forced the Sejm to agree with this partition. However, a young nobleman from today's Belarus named Tadeusz Rejtan tried to stop it. Dressed in the traditional noble robes of his class, with a sash for a sword and cavalry boots. He had a traditionally styled mustache and a shaved head, except for a bit of hair left on top, as nobles had previously done. He must have differed from the others at the Sejm, who supposedly had a more Western dress. Rejtan protested during the Sejm, but his voice fell on deaf ears. The others were bought by outside influence, or they had just given up. In the end, as the Sejm was on the way out, Rejtan threw himself on the doorstep, tearing his robes open and shouting, "kill me, stamp on me, but do not kill the fatherland."

Does this sound familiar? While much of PiS's national history policy concerns 20th-century history, they draw inspiration from these events. Here, we can find a base for the views on Polish identity and how the ideal pole should behave in crisis. And who can blame them? This was more or less a blatant robbery in the middle of the day.

Christ of Europe

After this first partition, many Poles went into exile, some fighting in America against the British. Others stayed and started to work, trying to reform and stabilize what was left of Poland. Education policies and a new constitution were put in place. These reforms were not looked upon fondly by the surrounding countries. Soon, Prussia and Russia were hungry for more. In 1792, these two countries moved in and seized more land. An uprising was staged and led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who had fought in the American Revolution. This attempt to recapture the lands taken was unsuccessful; in 1795, there was a last partition between Austria, Prussia, and Russia. This would be the end of Poland-Lithuania during the coming 123 years.

It is during this time we start to see Poland adopting an almost messianic identity of suffering. During and after the participation, there began to become an idea that Poland was the Christ of Europe. While traces of this idea can be found way back during the conflicts with the Ottoman Empire, the poet Adam Mickiewicz revitalized the idea. Mickiewicz wrote "Polska Chrystusem narodów" or Poland, the Chist of Europe. Incorporating the idea of victimhood into the Polish identity. It also reshapes the Polish identity from being one based on ethnicity to one of religion. With Catholic Poland torn apart and threatened by Protestants and Orthodox Christians, it's not strange that the focus shifted from ethnicity to religion. The Catholic church is still fundamental in Poland and a big part of the national identity. In early 2000, in a study by Ireneusz Krzemiński, a survey was performed, and 78% of those asked agreed that Poland has been the victim of injustice more than other nations. This number has been relatively steady, according to a 2019 IPSOS survey, where 74% of respondents agreed that Poland has faced more injustices.

Gdansk during the Uprising

Gdansk during the Uprising. Photo: Fredrik Trusohamn

With this historical identity of victimhood, it's not strange that the populistic national-conservative PiS can use and abuse this to their advantage. We can see parallels between the teachings of WWII and Poland behind the Iron Curtain and the participation of Poland-Lithuania. An act nothing less than a daylight mugging in front of the rest of Europe who stood idly by. A crime justified by the 18th-century xenophobic enlightenment ideals; as Larry Wolf put it, Poland and the Slavs are portrayed as backward and barbaric. People desperately need the helpful guiding hand of the more intellectual and benevolent West.

Silencing memories

So what's the harm, then? With a good understanding of Poland's past, let's see what this has led to. Let's return to the museums we talked about before. We're back in the immersive and emotional exhibitions and, walking around and experiencing history on both an emotional plane and fed with facts and information. But something is missing, to be honest, I believe that most visitors don't even realize it, when you walk down the exhibitions there is a story that's not told. The story is black and white. The Germans and the Russians are the enemy, the ones solely responsible for the slaughter. The Poles are the heroes and saviors, doing what nobody else dared to do and risking their own lives.

While it makes for a good story, it's far from the truth. The reality is covered in more gray, something that the ruling party, PiS, has tried to solve by enacting memory laws . While memory laws aren't necessarily bad, the Polish laws are written in a way that hinders scholarly research and academic discussion. Memory Laws have existed in Poland and other nations for some time. In 1998, the first version of "Act on the Institute of National Remembrance" was enacted in Poland. In short, this law made "public denial, against the facts, of Nazi crimes, communist crimes, and other offenses constituting crimes against peace" illegal. Similar laws have been enacted in other countries. But in 2018, PiS added an addendum to the act, making it unlawful for a person to "publicly and contrary to the facts attributes to the Polish Nation or to the Polish State responsibility or co-responsibility for Nazi crimes."

At first, this law was sold as a way to stop people from referring to the Concentration camps built by Nazi Germany as Polish Death camps. Even Barack Obama was forced to issue an apology when referring to the concentration camps as being Polish. But the law, as we will see, has instead been used in attempts to silence academics and research on Polish complicity in the Holocaust created and led by Nazi Germany.

The reality is that while some did help Jews, others went the other way and participated in the Judenjagd, or the Jew Hunt. Poles would turn on the neighbors harboring Jews or partisans. In the 2016 book " Hunt for the Jews ," Jan Grabowski uses the rural area of Dąbrowa Tarnowska in southeast Poland as a case study. In it, we can look at the grey areas left out in the history written by PiS. There was a large amount of anti-semitic ideas and policies in place before Germany's invasion. As Grabowski points out, during the 1930s in Poland, the relations between the Jews and the Poles were deteriorating. Anti-Semitic ideas could be found in mainstream politics and the Catholic Church. In 1936, then-prime minister Felicjan Sławoj-Składkowsk said in a speech to the Sejm that the people should financially boycott Jewish businesses. Just between 1932 and 1933, there is a vast number of reported cases of criminal cases with an anti-Jewish agenda. From vandalism to all-out riots, these cases get into the double digits just in a small Polish town.

Grabowski goes on to quote Jewish-Polish Historian Emanuel Ringelblum , who said: "Where the environment had been infected with anti-Semitism before the war, hiding Jews presented great difficulties, and denunciations by anti-Semitic neighbors were more to be feared there than the German terror."

Emanuel Ringelblum went through a lot of trouble documenting life in the Getto of Warsaw and the refugees from Zbąszyn. Unfortunately, he was executed in 1944 after his hiding spot in Warsaw was disclosed to the Gestapo by a Polish collaborator.

As we see, there was a great deal of Poles who actively and willingly participated in the German-instigated genocide of Jews in territories occupied by Nazi Germany. Luckily, or maybe unlucky, for the Polish self-image, Soviet Russia was also anti-Semitic. Something that led to these crimes against humanity was allowed to be swept under the rug when being behind the Iron Curtain. This image of the noble Polish citizen risking themself for the Jewish people would take quite a turn in 2001 when Jan Gross's book " Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne " was released.

In this small Polish town, there was a plaque put up commemorating the Jews who were killed in the city. Up until 2001, the plaque mentioned that these people were killed by Nazi soldiers. People passed that sign daily; many probably didn't know it was a lie. As it would turn out, at least 340 men, women, and children were killed by the Polish townsfolks. The highest estimate for the people killed is 1500. As Jan Gross writes on page 73 in his book, "The massacre of Jedwabne Jews on July 10, 1941, was coordinated by the town's mayor, Marian Karolak. His name appears in virtually every deposition. He issued orders to others and was himself otherwise, more practically, engaged throughout the pogrom."

While a station of 11 German Grenadiers was located in the area, it's hard to say if this was on their orders. While witnesses claim to have seen Mayor Korlak speak with the soldiers, nobody knows if they actually made this order. An anti-semitic spirit was present in the village even before the Nazi-German occupation. What we can say for sure is that this massacre would not have taken place without the German's consent. They could also have stopped it, but what we know for sure is that their involvement seems to have been limited to taking a few pictures. We don't know if the Jews of Jedwabne would have been spared if Poland had not been invaded. Prognoms were taking place after the war, such as the Kielce massacre, where 42 Jews were killed by Polish people. Hundreds of Jews were killed after the war by Polish Nationalists. Jedwabne might have followed in these steps after the war. But what we do know is that on the 10th of July in 1941, the townsfolk in Jedwabne raped, mutilated, murdered, and looted their Jewish Neighbors. Not on direct orders from the Nazi occupiers but from the mayor of their town.

When the news of this came, many doubted it to be true. These people are still around today. Even the new monument that was put up leaves room for deniability. On it, we can read "To the Memory of Jews from Jedwabne and the Surrounding Area, Men, Women, and Children, Co-inhabitants of this Land, Who Were Murdered and Burned Alive on This Spot on July 10, 1941."

But it's good that Poland is starting to deal with this, right? Well, here is the thing. I'm not sure if this would be research possible in Poland today. With the 2018 law, the Polish government can't be accused of complicity. This stretches down to local city councils, as two respected history professors, Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, learned in 2021 when they were put on trial for breaking the 2018 law. The trial was based on a vitness account that Engelking published in a chapter of the 2018 book "Dalej Jest Noc. Losy Żydów w Wybranych Powiatach Okupowanej Polski," or " Night Without End : The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland."

In this account, we follow Estera Drogicka, who was helped by the sołty, or the head of the village of Malinowa, Edward Malinowski. A little Polish word lesson here, the word malinowa translates to raspberries. In this account, we see the duality of humans. While Malinowski, according to this account, did seem to help Jews escape, even if he seems to have been charged for it, he also reported some who were in hiding to the authorities. Something that's often repeated is that the Germans would punish those who hid Jews with death. That's not the case; while some who hid people certainly were executed, many others just got served fines.

The following is a translation of the passage based on a witness account from one who managed to survive and hide from the Nazis.

"However, Estera Drogicka (née Siemiatycka), after losing her family, armed with documents purchased from a Belarusian woman, decided to leave for Prussia to work. The village head (Schultheiß or Sołtys) of Malinowa, Edward Malinowski, helped her with this (robbing her in the process) — and in December 1942, she ended up in Rastenburg (Kętrzyn) as a domestic helper in the German Fittkau family. Not only did she meet her second husband there (another Pole working there), but she also developed a trade business, sending packages of goods for sale to Malinowski. She visited him when she went on vacation "home." She was aware that he was complicit in the deaths of several dozen Jews who were hiding in the forest and were handed over to the Germans. Despite this, during his post-war trial, she gave false testimony in his defense." - Grabowski and Engelking (2018) p. 138 (Translation by F. Trusohamn).

The authors have thoroughly documented and accounted for all the sources in their book, providing a comprehensive list of references. Yet, the 2018 law has opened up for researchers to be dragged into court by people who don't like their findings. The law, however, makes it a civil matter, but the nationalistic right-wing organization Good Name Redoubt—Polish League Against Defamation —, with ties to PiS, has taken it upon itself to sponsor these lawsuits. For example, we just heard about the one. They even got Malinowski's niece, Filomena Leszczyńska, involved. In later interviews, she commented, "This book is intended to keep us crawling. Accuse uf of anti-Semitism, of collaboration with the Germans, of the worst things." This shows how deeply rooted this idea of the suffering of the noble Pole is.

However, the government is also investigating researchers who publish these subjects. Masha Geshen from the New Yorker, who interviewed Jan Grabowski, wrote in 2021 :

 ""The machinery of the Polish state is engaged in the suppression of independent research," Grabowski told me. State-employed researchers have been "looking at each and every footnote to see if we made a mistake" in "Night Without End," he said. The book has more than thirty-five hundred footnotes."

Jan Gross, whom we mentioned earlier, was also subjugated to investigations and hour-long interrogations by the government. This was after he made a comment that the Polish people in occupied Poland probably killed more Jews than they killed Nazis. The president even threatened to take away an award Gross got in 1996. PiS also had the museum director of Warsaw's Polin , a museum about the Polish Jews, Dariusz Stola, ousted from his position. What led to this was an exhibition that the museum put up about the Anti-Zionist campaigns and purges of Jews that happened in March 1968 as a response to the political crisis taking place. At the end of the exhibitions were anonymous anti-Jewish quotes from 1968 and modern times. Still, some of these could be recognized as belonging to members of the PiS party.

The investigation of Jan Gross was dropped when he retired from Princeton. While Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking were initially convicted, an appeals court later overturned the ruling. Judge Joanna Wiśniewska-Sadomska declared in the ruling that "the courtroom was not the right place for a historical debate." However, the verdict still had effects; for example, the section about Malinowski was removed from the English translation. Also, who knows what will happen the next time something similar goes to court?

This little case study of Poland shows the dangers of a government trying to control the historical narrative. While some might not agree with my assessment that this is a sort of alternative history narrative, I stand by this claim. At the bare minimum, we can all agree that this is a distortion of history. We also have, in the past, covered how nationalistic governments have sponsored pseudoarchaeological projects in Bosnia and Indonesia; this is just a maybe even more dangerous version of this.

Sources, resources, and further reading suggestions


“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv

Lily of the woods by Sandra Marteleur