Facebook Blocks Polish Remembrance Authority After Post on Nazi War Crimes

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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SS officers expelling residents of the Zamosc region in Poland in 1942
SS officers expelling residents of the Zamosc region in Poland in 1942
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Facebook blocked access over the weekend to the English-language page of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, an institution tasked with documenting Nazi and Communist crimes committed in Poland, allegedly due to a post on Germany's forcible expulsion of the Polish population of the Zamosc region. 

A statement from the institute attributed Facebook’s action to a Facebook post seven months ago regarding the abduction of Polish children by Nazi Germany during World War II. “In the banned post, we wrote about German plans to Germanize children, referring to authentic documents. Despite the submitted appeal, the account has been disabled since Saturday morning,” the statement said in part.

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This was the second time that Facebook had censored the page, the institute said, after in January, the social media firm prevented it from disseminating its video on the fate of 3,000 Polish children imprisoned in a German camp in the city of Lodz. “The Institute of National Remembrance protests against censoring information on German crimes during World War II,” the statement added.

The events described in the Polish institute’s Facebook post are not fake news. In the winter of 1942 to 1943, the Germans forcibly expelled the Polish population of the Zamosc region. Roughly 110,000 Poles, including 30,000 children separated from their parents, were driven out of their homes. Some of them were sent to the Majdanek and Auschwitz concentration camps. Others were placed in a special camp in Lodz or sent to Germany as forced laborers. Some were murdered.

The post that resulted in Facebook’s action stated in part that a portion of the children were sent to German families for Germanization, in other words, to make them German. The institute called the chapter in Polish history “one of the cruelest [crimes] during World War II.”

The institute, which is also known by its Polish initials, IPN, is a government-sponsored entity established by virtue of legislation passed in 1998. “Its establishment is based on the desire to prevent the denial of crimes committed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union against Polish citizens from the outbreak of World War II to the end of the Communist regime in Poland [in 1989],” according to a description from Israel’s national Holocaust remembrance authority, Yad Vashem.

In addition to historical research, the IPN has been granted a measure of authority to institute legal action. It attracted negative news coverage in 2018 over an effort, which was later reversed, to pass legislation authorizing criminal prosecution and three years in prison for claiming that Poles participated in the Nazi crimes.

The Facebook post regarding Zamosc related to crimes committed by Germans against non-Jewish Poles. Senior historians in Israel, Poland and elsewhere around the world have claimed in recent years that in addition to dealing with the exposure of the real crimes of Germans and others against non-Jewish Poles, the institute has been distorting information about crimes committed by Poles against Jews during the Holocaust. In the process, the critics claim, it has been toeing a line dictated by the conservative, right-wing Polish government, which has come in for criticism from around the world.

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