Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 7: An open letter from Polish teachers

Material

An open letter from Polish teachers about the manipulation of recent Polish history (3 August 2016)

Deep knowledge and respect for human beings are among the most important aspects of education. They are largely shaped by the teaching of history, and particularly of events that constitute a watershed in the history of mankind and have an effect on the present. The Holocaust of the Jewish people was such an event. Its unprecedented and tragic character calls for careful consideration and prudence in commenting on it and teaching about it.

We teachers, pursuing a profession of public trust, are deeply alarmed by the public statements of high-ranking state officials about wartime and post-war events in Polish history.

Minister of Education, Anna Zalewska, in her public appearance avoided giving a clear and lucid answer to an explicit question about the perpetrators of the crimes against Jews in Jedwabne and Kielce, thus undermining the findings of historians and prosecutors who have established without doubt the responsibility of elements of the Polish population for these atrocities.

We were also astounded by the statement of Dr Jarosław Szarek, the newly appointed President of the Institute of National Remembrance (a centre wishing to play a crucial role in historical education), who placed the burden of responsibility for the Jedwabne murder exclusively on the Germans.

As teachers, we strive to broaden our knowledge and improve our pedagogical skills in the field of Holocaust education in order to make our students responsible and conscious citizens of Poland, Europe and the world. Our work is received with recognition and admiration by many educational institutions and research centres all over the world. We were thus all the more astonished by the public statement of Dr Marek Chrzanowski, a history teacher running for the President of the Institute of National Remembrance, who openly admitted his ignorance and inability in teaching about the extermination of Polish Jews. We perceive such statements as attempts to manipulate history. Guided in our pedagogical work by a sense of responsibility in conveying knowledge that is historically accurate, we have no doubt that the crimes in Jedwabne and Kielce were perpetrated by Poles. We have in full consciousness taken upon ourselves the task of educating our students about that difficult and painful page in our nation’s past.

We object to any actions that grossly contradict substantiated knowledge and are indicative of an attempt to manipulate historical facts. We call for adherence and dedication to facts and for prudence in formulating statements about the period in question. Rigorous academic and educational achievements of scholars and teachers respectively should not be discarded.

Adam Musiał, teacher of English and Cultural Studies, Kraków

Małgorzata Rusiłowicz, teacher of Polish, Białystok

Barbara Subko, teacher of Polish, Warsaw

Bożenna Sucharska, teacher of Polish and Cultural Studies, Gdańsk

Robert Szuchta, teacher of History, Warsaw

Agnieszka Wozowicz, teacher of Art History, Kraków

 

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