Dariusz Ratajczak (1962-2010) was a Polish historian who was dismissed from his university teaching post, publicly vilified, and convicted of "Holocaust denial" for having published arguments and evidence that cast doubt on aspects of the familiar Holocaust story. He held a doctoral degree in history, and was the author of several books.
Ratajczak was born in Opele, Upper Silesia, in November 1962. After study at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, he took a position in 1988 as a lecturer at the History Institute of the state-run University of Opele, where he was popular with students.
In April 1999 Dr. Ratajczak was suspended from his teaching post after state prosecutors opened an investigation into the publication of his book Tematy niebezpieczne ("Dangerous Themes").
In a five-page section of this short book, headed "Holocaust Revisionism," Ratajczak matter-of-factly cited the work of non-conformist researchers and historians such as Paul Rassinier, Robert Faurisson, David Irving and Ernst Zündel, who had contended that there was no German plan or program to exterminate Europe's Jews. He also cited forensic investigations carried out at the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps by Fred Leuchter and Germar Rudolf, and their conclusions that Zyklon B could not have been safely used to kill large numbers of Jews, as alleged, and that, for technical reasons, the familiar claims of wartime killings of millions of Jews in gas chambers are not possible.
While Ratajczak did not explicitly endorse these revisionist views, he appeared to agree with at least some of them. Moreover, he called Holocaust "eyewitness" testimony "useless," and described establishment Holocaust writers as "followers of a religion of the Holocaust" who impose on others "a false image of the past." He also suggested that the number of Jews who died in "the Holocaust" was three million, not the often-claimed six million.
Ratajczak published 320 copies of the book in March 1999 at his own expense. Only a few were sold at the university bookstore or directly to students, or were given away to friends, before police seized the remaining copies.
Publication of "Dangerous Themes" set off a storm of fierce criticism, including protests by some prominent scholars. Critics charged that Ratajczak's book represented the first serious case of "Holocaust denial" in Poland. Critics also noted that he had published articles in patriotic/ nationalist periodicals, including Mysl Polska and Najwyzszy Czas.
Ratajczak was charged with having violated a Polish law that makes it illegal to publicly deny crimes against humanity committed in Poland by the German National Socialist regime or by Communist regimes. "Holocaust denial" is a crime in Israel, Poland, and several other European states.
In response to critics, and in his court pleadings, Ratajczak acknowledged that he had presented revisionist arguments, but said that he had done so not to endorse them, but to illustrate this point of view.
He told the court that he had merely summarized opinions of historians who hold dissident views on the Holocaust issue, and that his own views are not in line with all the opinions presented in his book. "I was only presenting various views on the Holocaust to students," he said. At no time did he ever dispute or "deny" that Jews had been killed in gas chambers.
In September 1999 Ratajczak arranged for a second edition of 30,000 copies, which was published by a small firm in Warsaw. A few thousand copies were reportedly sold through kiosks and news stands, and by mail order across Poland.
In December 1999 a court in Opele found Ratajczak guilty of violating Poland's "Holocaust denial" law. However, the court found that the book's limited distribution was not damaging enough to warrant punishment. Noting that only 320 copies of this self-published book had been issued, the court declared that it had caused only "negligible harm to society." The court also noted that in the second edition of the work, Ratajczak had criticized "denial" arguments.
Some critics regarded the court's verdict as too lenient, insisting that Ratajczak's crime deserved imprisonment. The state prosecutor also appealed, demanding a ten-month prison term.
At the University where he had taught, students signed petitions supporting him. Ratajczak himself remained defiant, rejecting all the charges against him. He appealed for an outright acquittal.
In April 2000 the University of Opele announced Ratajczak's dismissal from his teaching post for having violated ethical standards, and banned him for three years from teaching at Polish universities.
Eventually a three-judge panel in Opole upheld a lower court's decision to drop proceedings against Ratajczak on the condition he refrain from similar offenses for one year.The case against him was dismissed in 2002.
Another edition of "Dangerous Themes" published in 2005 merely attributed to revisionist researchers skeptical claims about Zyklon having been used to kill millions of Jews in gas chambers during World War II.
Ratajczak never returned to teaching work, and for the remaining ten years of his life was forced to work at menial employment and odd jobs.
In June 2010 the body of Dariusz Ratajczak was found in a car parked near a shopping center in Opole. He had been dead for nearly two weeks. The cause of death was uncertain. He was 47 years old. He was survived by a son and a daughter.
Ratajczak spoke about his life, his views, and his ordeal in an interview given in 2002. Here are some excerpts:
"... Although the cretinous Marxists are already gone, they have been adequately replaced with empty-headed, politically correct idiots, who are as numerous in Poland as in Australia. Stupidity is not picky about continents, it seems. It is they, those good-for-nothing historians, who finish off history, which in their version ceases to be the carrier of truth, the mistress of life, the reason for national pride. It is they who, deliberately, convert history into a handmaid of current political interests of equally morally and intellectually cheap ruling elites. Finally, it is they who decide which fact or historical figure to make prominent, and about which to keep silent to the death. Of course, they do it from the angle of current political usefulness.
"... A historian has one basic role to perform. It is to reach the truth. In essence, truth is a historian's only friend. A historian ought to know that truth has no hues; truth is always clear, and one. Striving after truth, a historian should avoid like fire 'friendly' whispers, such as 'any coin has two sides,' 'the golden mean,' 'make a compromise,' etc., because they lead him astray, get him closer to lying. After ascertaining the truth and here we are touching a historian's other role the investigator should share the truth with others, regardless of the consequences. After all, truth must have not only an individual dimension, but also a social one.
"... The sine qua non condition for practicing history, that is, freedom of speech, is already a past memory. It has been replaced with political correctness, that is, soc-liberal censorship, or, as somebody has nicely put it, a 'tyranny of good intentions.' Thus, in today's grim times the sine qua non condition for practicing history is the historian himself -- truthful, independent, immune to punches, and, finally, simply courageous. Yes, we have lived to see times when, jokingly speaking (but it is a bitter joke), a historian should be a cross between an intellectual and a boxer ...
"... At present, the charge of anti-Semitism has become a sort of exceptionally brutal weapon, which the 'Establishment' uses ruthlessly against independent thinking men (for the greater fun of it, also against Jews, such as Dr. Israel Shahak."