Lublin governor files defamation suit against art historian sparking free speech fears in Poland

Dorota Nieznalska's installation Judenfrei marks pogrom sites in Lublin Courtesy of the artist and Tomasz Kitlinski

The art historian Tomasz Kitliński, who has spent years championing intellectual freedom and cultural expression in Poland, is the subject of a defamation lawsuit by Przemysław Czarnek, the Lublin regions governor and an incoming member of Polish parliament. According to the countrys penal code, Kitliński could face a two-year maximum prison sentence if found guilty of slandering a public official.

Kitliński commissioned the artist Dorota Nieznalska to create a work for Open City Festival, which he curated in Lublin this autumn. Nieznalskas installation Judenfrei–a Nazi term for areas “cleansed” of Jews–marked the sites of pogroms in the city. In 2018, Polish parliament outlawed blaming Poland for any crimes committed during the Holocaust.

Czarnek appeared on state television on 4 October, dismissing Judenfrei as anti-Polish and demanding the works removal. But Kitliński kept the installation in place. Soon after the exhibition ended on 11 October, Lublins Marie Curie-Skłodowska University awarded Czarnek an honorary medal. Kitliński, who lectures at the school, posted a protest letter online that included the line, “The governor of Lublin Region prides himself in offending Ukranians, Muslims, the LGBT community and women, for whom he sees no social role other than the reproduction of children.”

Academics from across Europe and the US have come to Kitlińskis defence, including Irena Grudzińska Gross, recently retired from Princeton University, Sarah Wilson, lecturer at Londons Courtauld Institute of Art, and Los Angeles-based artist Simone Gad. All have signed a petition in support of the curator.

In early November, a religious broadcast programme, Radio Maryja, mentioned Kitlińskis name every hour on the hour, calling the academic anti-Polish. The radio stations programming has long faced criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and even the Catholic Church.

“Something is rotten in the state of Poland,” Kitliński says. “Ive beRead More – Source