Warsaw court launches "Night Without an End" lawsuit

Hearings in a defamation lawsuit against historians Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski, co-authors of the book, "Night Without an End", launched before a Warsaw district court on Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed by Filomena Leszczyńska, the niece of Edward Malinowski, during World War II head of the village of Malinowo (north-eastern Poland), whom both authors accused of robbing a Jewish woman and complicity with Poland's wartime German occupants in the murder of Jews.

According to Leszczyńska the accusations are false. She is demanding an apology, PLN 100,000 (EUR 23,400) in compensation, an erratum to the claims and a publication ban.

During the hearing Leszczyńska's attorney Monika Brzozowska explained that in their book Engelking and Grabowski had confused two persons of the same name, probably due to insufficient research and the fact that Malinowo had a high percentage of inhabitants with the surname Malinowski.

Engelking's and Grabowski's counsel Michał Jabłoński moved for dropping the charges on grounds that Leszczyńska had no personal part in the described events, therefore could not have been subject to defamation.

After the hearing Maciej Świrski, head of Poland's anti-defamation organisation Good Name Redoubt which is assisting Leszczyńska in the case, said files from a 1950 hearing in the matter indicated that Malinowski was no collaborator and in fact hid Jews from the Germans and aided them throughout the war.

Świrski added that Engelking and Grabowski, who used the 1950 files as a source for their book, had omitted to cite Jewish testimonies in Malinowski's favour, in effect of which the village head was depicted as a killer of Jews.

Good Name Redoubt also pointed out that the accusations against Malinowski were based on a 1996 testimony by Maria Wiltgren, a Jewish woman who had been saved by Malinowski during the war. The organisation noted that in 1950, then under the name Estera Drogicka, Wiltgren defended Malinowski at his trial, and immediately after the war presented yet another version of her story when applying for a job with the Polish security police.

"Night Without an End" was published in 2018. The voluminous publication depicts the survival strategies adopted by Jews in several Polish counties during World War II. The book evoked a mixed response in historical circles and was sharply criticised by Jarosław Szarek, head of Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), who said that its authors had resorted to manipulation on a "horrendous" scale.