Members of staff at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum are being targeted by Polish nationalists in the wake of a new law criminalising references to Poles’ complicity during the Holocaust.
Senior officials have hit back after one foreign guide had his home vandalised and another was harangued by supporters of a convicted anti-Semite while conducting a tour of the site in March.
Others connected to the museum, including director Piotr Cywiński, have been subjected to a communications onslaught, similar to that experienced by staff at the Jewish Museum in Camden earlier this year.
The campaign of “hate, fake news and manipulations” follows a controversial law passed by Poland’s government several weeks ago, which bans references to “Polish death camps” and the false attribution to Poland of complicity in the crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.
The law caused enormous upset in Israel, where politicians accused Poles of seeking to suppress free speech and examination of events during the Holocaust.
But in recent weeks nationalists have accused the museum of downplaying the death of 74,000 non-Jewish Poles killed at the camp and of only focusing on Jewish victims.
Now, the museum is beginning to fight back. Pawel Sawicki, who runs the museum’s social media unit, said Cywiński had suffered “50 days of incessant hatred” directed at the museum’s director, with “dozens of articles on dodgy websites, hundreds of Twitter accounts, thousands of similar tweets, profanities, memes, threats, slanders, denunciations,” adding: “It’s enough to make you sick.”
Nationalist campaigners say they want all museum guides to be Polish, to be licenced by a Polish national institution, and to put forward the Polish perspective.
It comes after the home of an Italian museum guide was vandalised in February, with a Star of David equated to a Nazi symbol, and words reading “Poland for the Poles” and “Auswitz [sic] for Poland guide!!” were scrawled over the walls.
Karen Pollock of Holocaust Educational Trust said the organisation “expressed our concern and fear that this new Polish law would lead to intimidation and stifling of debate. I am horrified .. We stand in solidarity with our dear friends [at the] Auschwitz Museum doing crucial job”