Prominent Princeton-based Historian, Jan Gross is threatened with having his state honor, the Order of Merit he received in 1996, stripped from him by the Polish President.
The Polish government, taking a turn to the right, is trying to deny the historical facts of the Holocaust and Poland’s involvement in it. Gross has written many historical books indicating Poland’s involvement in the death of many members of its Jewish population during that time. The President is threatening to withdraw Professor Gross’ honor. Additionally, Poland is considering a new law that would carry jail time for anyone referring to Aushwitz or other extermination sites as “Polish death camps.” Use of this term could carry a five year prison sentence. CCS is requesting that the Polish government reconsider and not rescind Dr. Gross’ honor.
February 22, 2016
President of the Republic of Poland
Krakowskie Przedmieście 48/50
Warsaw, 00-071 Poland
Dear President Duda:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists joins Polish academics in protesting the intention of the Polish government to strip Princeton Professor Jan Tomasz Gross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, which was awarded to him in 1996.
Poland has given the world a large number of outstanding men and women whose work has graced its history. Professor Jan Gross is one of them. He was born in Warsaw to a mother who was a member of Polish resistance in World War II. He was a political dissident during the Communist regime in Poland in the 1960s, got expelled from his university, and was jailed for five months. After his release from prison in 1969 he left Poland for the United States and received a Ph.D. from Yale University. He is now a renowned historian at Princeton University.
The books on the Holocaust written by Professor Gross have received worldwide recognition. His father was a Polish Jew who was saved from extermination at the hands of the Germans by the heroic actions of his Polish Catholic mother. Although other brave Polish Catholics also saved some Jews, still others, occasionally and unfortunately, participated in killing some of them. Professor Gross has described this unhappy but true piece of history. In doing this, Professor Gross has illuminated the history of Poland during the Second World War, which was a very great tragedy for the country; it lost millions of its citizens at the hands of Nazi Germany, including three million of its Jews —about 90% of its pre-war number. It is important for Poland that its history be recorded as it actually happened. In doing his important, truth-telling work, Professor Gross has done Poland a great service.
We appeal to the Polish government that it rescinds any plans to punish Professor Gross for his important work. Recognizing it, and allowing it to be openly studied and discussed in Poland, is a great service to humanity and a tribute to the vitality and self-confidence of the Polish nation.
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
Sincerely,Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich,
Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
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