Polish Professor Under Fire for 'Holocaust Denial'

Dariusz Ratajczak, a professor at the University of Opole in southern Poland, was suspended in April 1999 from his teaching post following protests over his book, "Dangerous Topics," in which he writes sympathetically about revisionist scholarship disputing Holocaust claims.

Jewish organizations lost no time in voicing alarm over the new book, which apparently is the most scholarly presentation thus far in Poland of Holocaust revisionism. A Jewish community leader in Poland called it "shocking."

In the book, which was sold in university bookstores, Ratajczak appears to agree with specialists who contend that, for technical reasons, well-known claims of killing millions of Jews in gas chambers are impossible, that Zyklon B was used only for disinfecting, and that there was no German plan or program to exterminate Europe's Jews. He also contends that most Holocaust scholars "are adherents of a religion of the Holocaust."

The 37-year-old professor, who served with the university's Historical Institute, was popular with students. He responded to the furor with a letter to the influential Polish daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, in which he denied being an anti-Semite.

On May 31, 1999, state prosecutors in southwestern Poland brought charges against Ratajczak for violating a recently-enacted law that bans public denial of German crimes. If convicted, the scholar faces three years imprisonment.

In promulgating the law, Poland joins several other European states that criminalize "Holocaust denial." Unlike similar laws elsewhere, though, the Polish law additionally bans "denial" of Communist crimes.


From The Journal of Historical Review, May-June 1999 (Vol. 18, No. 3), page 31.