By Stanley Bill
Two days ago President Andrzej Duda astonished both politicians and pundits by vetoing 2 of 3 controversial judicial reform acts proposed by the Polish government. In his justification, Duda indirectly attacked the Justice Minister – who is also the Public Prosecutor General – for attempting to acquire undue influence over the judicial system. Inspired by the advice of veteran “Solidarity” campaigner Zofia Romaszewska, Duda argued that “in the Polish constitution and in the Polish constitutional system the Public Prosecutor General has never had any supervision over the Supreme Court.” In a possible clue to a more personal motivation and an internal party power play, he also expressed his disappointment that he had not been consulted – presumably by the Justice Ministry – during the preparation of the bill.
By Stanley Bill
A new museum in the village of Markowa in the east of Poland honors the sacrifice of Poles who lost their lives in the attempt to save their Jewish neighbors from the Holocaust. The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War II is housed in the place where Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their six children were murdered along with Saul Goldman, Gołda Grünfeld, Lea Didner and five other children by German gendarmes in 1944. Their tragic story symbolises the fate of hundreds of others who paid the ultimate price for kindness in Nazi-occupied Poland, where aiding Jews was punishable with death. In a recent ceremony, Polish President Andrzej Duda opened the museum in the presence of other politicians, religious leaders, journalists, and guests from Israel. Notes from Poland co-editor Stanley Bill attended the event. He reports on the museum, the ceremony, and Poland’s new politics of history.
By Daniel Tilles
While it is completely understandable that Poland wants to stamp out the misleading and offensive phrase ‘Polish death camps’, this should be done through education, not by threatening prison sentences for those who use the term, as the government has proposed. Even more worryingly, the new draft law on this issue – combined with a threat to withdraw a state honour from historian Jan Gross – has the potential to be just the opening salvo in a far broader attempt by the ruling party to impose its historical vision, potentially impinging on academic freedom, argues Daniel Tilles, a British historian based in Kraków.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has long made clear that it wishes the country to pursue – in the words of President Andrzej Duda earlier this week – an ‘aggressive historical policy’, with the dual aim of fostering a greater sense of patriotic pride at home while enhancing the country’s image abroad. Continue reading