Wikipedia bans editors for denying Polish complicity in Holocaust

Four editors had aimed to introduce content which absolves Poland of blame for Jewish suffering during the Holocaust


Wikipedia has banned three editors from working on articles relating to Jewish history in Poland during World War II.

The decision was made by Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, which acts as a Supreme Court over a large volunteer community who edit the website. 

The decision, Wikipedia says, was made to resolve editing disputes and safeguard its credibility, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

An investigation was launched by the Committee in response to an academic study which concluded a group of editors had gamed Wikipedia’s rules to introduce content that absolves Poland of blame for antisemitism and Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.

However, the Committee did not take a position on the underlying dispute over Polish antisemitism and complicity with the Nazis. They only concluded the editors in questions did not adhere to the community’s code of conduct.

Shira Klein, a history professor at Chapman University whose study, written with University of Ottawa historian Jan Grabowski, triggered the investigation was left disappointed by Wikipedia’s decision.

She said that by avoiding the issue of historical truth and focusing on civility, Wikipedia sent a clear message.

The academic added: “There’s no problem with falsifying the past; just be nice about it.”

The ruling comes amid a flare-up of attention to Poland’s insistence on a narrative of innocence during its occupation by Nazi Germany following comments made by Israeli pop star Noa Kirel following her third-place finish in the Eurovision song contest. 

Speaking to Israeli media, she said: “Receiving 12 points from Poland after what our people and my family have been through in the Holocaust, it's a true victory."

She pointed out that much of her family on her father’s side had been murdered in Auschwitz. 

However, Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski denounced the comments and said: “The fact that many people in Israel consider Poland to be a co-perpetrator of German crimes - not their victim - is often the result not so much of bad will as lack of knowledge and incomplete education. 

“There are many reasons, but one of them was certainly the form of organized trips of Israeli youth to Poland."

Since 2018, it has also been a criminal offence to accuse Poland of complicity with the Nazi regime. 

Klein and Grabowski said they identified a set of Wikipedia editors who are propagating the same ideas on the site.

Klein added: “There is a systemic problem here that goes way beyond the distortion of Holocaust history.

“This is the seventh-most viewed site in the world, yet the safeguards Wikipedia has in place for battling disinformation are scarily ineffective. 

“If it’s true for the history of the Holocaust, it is probably true for other cases we have yet to discover. With ChatGPT amplifying Wikipedia on an unprecedented scale, this new failure is all the more worrying.”

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