Polish WW2 war crimes historian quits over Nazi salute pictures

Matthew Day
·2 min read
Tomasz Greniusz performing a Nazi-style salute at party rallies in 2005-07 - Social media
Tomasz Greniusz performing a Nazi-style salute at party rallies in 2005-07 - Social media

A high-profile figure in a Polish institute involved in researching World War Two crimes has resigned less than two weeks after being appointed following controversy over his links to a far-Right anti-Semitic group and pictures of him performing a Nazi-style salute.

Historian Tomasz Greniuch was appointed head of the branch of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) in the southern city of Wroclaw earlier this month.

He quit on Monday after outrage grew over images showing he once belonged to the National Radical Camp, an extreme-right organisation that has roots in pre-war anti-Semitic movements, and him performing a Nazi-style salute at party rallies back in 2005-07.

Earlier Monday, Michal Dworczyk, the head of the Prime Minister's Office, said that for "for the sake of the institution and image of Poland”, he should resign.

His appointment to a senior position that would have involved investigating Nazi crimes has caused a scandal in Poland due to acute sensitivities around anti-Semitism in the Central-European state, as well as concerns over the direction of the country under the governing Law and Justice party.

Since it came into office in 2015, the party has faced frequent accusations that it is fostering an environment that encourages far-Right sentiments - something it denies - and promoting a more nationalistic account of Polish history.

Agnieszka Pomaska, a member of the opposition MP from the Civic Coalition, said Mr Greniuch’s appointment was unsurprising given that the “current government regularly fraternizes with nationalist circles”.

Another opposition MP, Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, said: “The scandal surrounding Mr Greniuch lasted only a few days but will have devastating consequences for Poland’s image abroad that will take years to repair. Law and Justice’s history policy has once again led to our country being discredited in the world.”

Some politicians have also called for the resignation of Jaroslaw Szarek, the head of the IPN, for going ahead with the appointment despite concerns being voiced by both the government and Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, over the last few weeks.

Mr Greniuch issued a public apology on Friday for his making the salute.

“I have never been a Nazi and I apologise for the irresponsible gesture I made a dozen years ago, which was a mistake,” he said. “The gesture was the result of youthful bravado and impervious to common sense and its consequences. It was not glorifying totalitarianism.”

In a 2019 interview, he said he had not cut himself off from his earlier views but had changed his behaviour.

"When you have your dream job, you try to be a professional," he said.