(AFP) VARSOVIE, Poland — Two Holocaust survivors and a Polish anti-Nazi resistance fighter have filed a lawsuit against the publisher of books praising Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in a civil case that the plaintiffs’ lawyers said on Monday is the first of its kind in Poland.
The lawsuit against Katmar, a publisher based in the Baltic port city of Gdansk, focuses on two pro-Nazi propaganda books by Belgian Nazi collaborator and SS officer Leon Degrelle entitled “The Age of Hitler 1,” “The Age of Hitler 2,” and “Hitler the Democrat.”
Degrelle led Belgium’s far-right Rex Party before the war, and then became a Nazi SS officer decorated by Hitler.
“The promotion of Nazism and Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in Poland, and in theory prosecutable in the criminal courts, but in practice public prosecutors fail to act effectively in the majority of cases,” Wojciech Kozlowski, a lawyer with the Dentons global solicitors, told AFP.
“This is the first civil case of its kind ever brought in Poland,” he said, adding that prosecutors had rejected a previous suit against the Katmar publications under an article in Poland’s criminal code outlawing hate speech.
Launching a civil case means that courts have no choice but to deliberate it.
The plaintiffs argue that the Katmar publications authored by Degrelle can be regarded as pro-Nazi propaganda rather than a historical record because they do not contain a forward that would contextualize their content.
The lawsuit, filed on Friday in a Warsaw court under Articles 23 and 24 of the civil code, alleges that the Katmar publications violate the plaintiffs’ rights, including their dignity as persons who suffered under the Nazi German regime in occupied Poland.
The publishers of a large range of historically-themed books in Poland, Katmar did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP by email on Monday.
The plaintiffs, who are all in their eighties and have declined to reveal their identities, want Katmar to stop selling and distributing the book by Degrelle, to publish apologies in the Polish press and to pay 40,000 zlotys (9,500 euros, $11,700) to charity.
One of the plaintiffs fought the Nazis in the doomed 1944 Warsaw Uprising while the two Holocaust survivors were both saved from the Warsaw Ghetto as children. Their family members were killed by the Nazis.
“The motivation behind my involvement in this case is to protect historical truth about Nazi crimes and to pass this truth on to the young generations of Poles,” one of the plaintiffs said in a press release.
The plaintiffs are being represented by Dentons’ Warsaw office on a pro bono basis, with backing from The Lawfare Project, a legal think-tank focused on anti-Semitic discrimination.