‘Sieg Heiling Idiot’ Forced to Resign from Senior State Historian’s Post in Poland Following Global Outcry

Tomasz Greniuch, seen making a Nazi salute at a far right rally, was appointed by the Polish government to head the Institute of National Remembrance in the city of Wroclaw. Photo: Twitter.

The far right activist appointed earlier this month to a senior position in the Polish state-run Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) resigned in Monday following a domestic and international outcry over his assignment.

Tomasz Greniuch — one of the founders of the ultranationalist National Radical Camp (ONR) group in Poland — had been named as head of the IPN’s branch in the city of Wroclaw.

Over the last week, photographs of Greniuch attending far-right demonstrations — with more than one showing him giving the outstretched “sieg heil” salute adopted by the Nazis — have been shared widely on social media.

The IPN’s president, Jarosław Szarek, issued a statement saying that due to “the circumstances regarding the appointment of Tomasz Greniuch for the post of acting Director of the IPN’s Wrocław Branch, he cannot continue to perform this function.”

The initial news of Greniuch’s appointment to the IPN  — a taxpayer-funded institution that commemorates Poland’s experiences under German occupation followed by Communist Party rule — had resulted in a storm of protest from several Polish politicians as well as Jewish leaders.

On Sunday, Polish President Andrzej Duda expressed his opposition to Greniuch’s appointment without naming him specifically. According to his spokesperson, Wojciech Kolarski, the president emphasized his “unequivocal position” that the “director of the IPN “can only be a person of unblemished opinion.”

Several Polish media outlets pointed out, however, that Duda had helped to legitimize Greniuch as a bona-fide historian by awarding him the Bronze Cross of Merit in 2018.

Duda’s comments followed criticism from other politicians linked to the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) Party. Maciej Wąsik, Poland’s deputy interior minister, declared that there was “no place for heiling [Nazi-saluting] idiots in our public space. I count on a quick reaction of the IPN management.”

Prominent academics and influencers in Poland also called for Greniuch to be ousted. An open letter to the IPN signed by more than 100 people argued that a single statement from Greniuch distancing himself from his recent past was not enough.

“Changing views and ideological attitudes is of course possible and permissible, and withdrawing from nationalist or even fascist views is most welcome,” the letter stated. “However, a man entrusted with managerial functions in a public institution responsible for conducting historical research and educating the public about World War II must prove that he completely dissociates himself from previously held extreme views, and convince the public of this not with a single statement, but with many years of activity.”

Among the signatories to the letter was Dr. Barbara Engelking, a highly-regarded historian of the Holocaust, who was found guilty by a court in Warsaw on Feb. 9 of ‘libeling’ Edward Malinowski, a wartime Polish mayor who was alleged to have betrayed 20 Jews hiding from the Germans. Together with her colleague Prof. Jan Grabowski, Engelking was ordered to issue a public apology for “violating the honor” of Malinowski.

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Author: Ben Cohen

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