According to an article published yesterday on Artnet, Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska, the director and cultural manager of the Polish Culture Institute in Berlin, was fired from her post for “too much Jewish-themed content,” among other things. Wielga-Skolimowska’s contract was reportedly set to expire in the summer of 2017, but the dismissal order, given by Poland’s ultra rightwing PiS-led government, is to be “effective immediately.”
When asked for a comment on the dismissal, the Press Office of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that “it is not true that Mrs. Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska was dismissed from her role as director of Berlin as a result of ‘devoting too much attention to Jewish issues.’” The press office added that “the MFA does not comment on the Ministry’s personnel policy.”
The Berlin branch of the Polish Culture Institute faced sharp government criticism last year for screening Pawel Pawlikowski’s Academy Award-winning film “Ida” (2014), which centers on a young Polish nun-in-training who discovers that her parents were Jews murdered by neighboring Poles during World War II. As Hili Perlson at Artnet reported, the PiS government had instead wanted the institute to screen “Smolensk,” instead, a film which asserts that the 2010 plane crash that killed the Polish president and numerous other political and military figures was the result of Russian terrorism.
This is not the first time that the Polish PiS government has been accused of attempting to silence those who speak out about “Jewish-themed” content. In October 2015, the PiS government launched a libel investigation against Holocaust scholar Jan Gross. Gross, who has written about Polish crimes agains the Jews during the Holocaust (most famously the massacre at Jedwabne in his book “Neighbors” ), was accused of violating a law that makes it illegal to publicly insult the Polish nation.
Earlier in 2016, the Polish government passed a law that criminalizes the use of the phrase “Polish death camps,” in an effort to, according to a government statement, combat “insulting terms, which undermine Poland’s reputation.”