In the years 1962–1970, the Polish Scientific Publishers PWN was issuing subsequent volumes of the first post-war encyclopaedia, the Wielka encyklopedia powszechna (WEP). It was a large-scale endeavour (with over 3,000 people working on the publication) which sparked great interest in the society. Volume VII of the encyclopaedia (1966) featured the entry “Nazi concentration camps.” It should be emphasised, however, that the content of the entry had gone over numerous changes prior to the publication.

In August 1967, the PWN and the editors of the encyclopaedia were targeted by a smear campaign. As pointed out by Tadeusz P. Rutkowski, the origins of the “ecyclopaedist issue” are not fully known. It is possible that it had something to do with Stefan Staszewski, an editor at the PWN and former First Secretary of the Warsaw Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, who at the time was involved in a conflict with Gomułka. Regardless of the underlying causes of the campaign, one of the main points of criticism was the encyclopaedic entry on Nazi camps. The authorities and the state propaganda accused the editors of the publication of intentional sabotage: depreciating the martyrdom of the Polish nation, working in the German interest, overestimating the number of Jewish victims, and promoting Jewish history and tradition. The entry, however, was merely an excuse, while the attack launched against several editors of the encyclopaedia was directly connected to the anti-Jewish campaign. An important factor was also the struggle for influence in the party taken up by the openly anti-Jewish faction of “partisans,” who exploited the “encyclopaedist issue” to achieve particular political goals.

The media attacks against the encyclopaedists intensified after the Six-Days War. The later stages of the smear campaign were marked by the activities of head propagandist Tadeusz Kur. In 1968 he published an article entitled “Encyklopedyści” (“Encyclopaedists”) in the Prawo i Życie magazine, in which he referred to the work of the PWN editors as “a non-academic, biased, and malicious stunt” and suggested that “the struggle and martyrdom of the Polish nation during the war and Nazi occupation were utterly foreign to them.” Dariusz Fikus planned to publish a reply to Kur’s defamatory remarks in the Polityka magazine, but his article, entitled Kur wie lepiej, was banned by the censorship. The slogan “Kur wie lepiej” (“Kur knowns best”) became popular among oppositionists and was meant to symbolise the primitive character of regime-approved journalism.

The campaign resulted in the removal of ca. 40 PWN employees who worked on the encyclopaedia (most of them Jewish). Adam Bromberg, formed director of the PWN, also fell victim to repressions. In 1969, he was arrested on maladministration charges. Several months later the investigation was discontinued and Bromberg moved out of Poland.


  1. Eisler J., Polski rok 1968, Warsaw 2006.
  2. Osęka P., Marzec ’68, Warsaw 2008.
  3. Rutkowski T.P., Adam Bromberg i „encyklopedyści”. Kartka z dziejów inteligencji w PRL, Warsaw 2010.
  4. Skwieciński P., “Encyklopedyści ’68,” Res Publica 1990, no. 1, pp. 75–84.




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