Research misconduct ruling on historian’s Holocaust affair claim

‘Insufficient evidence’ for Warwick historian’s allegation that concentration camp survivor had lesbian affair with SS guard, university panel says

February 4, 2021
Anna Hájková
Source: Michal Šula/Profimedia
Anna Hájková, associate professor of modern continental European history at the University of Warwick

A historian committed research misconduct when she claimed that a Jewish concentration camp prisoner had a lesbian affair with an SS guard, a university investigation has ruled.

There was “insufficient evidence” to support the allegation of a physical relationship made by Anna Hájková, associate professor of modern continental European history at the University of Warwick, according to a panel convened by the institution. It also concluded that the ethical approval that should have been sought for the research was not in place beforehand.

Dr Hájková was previously fined €4,000 (£3,523) by a German court for breaching an injunction that forbade her from using the name of the Holocaust survivor – who died around 10 years ago – or her photograph in relation to the claim without her daughter’s permission. The fine was imposed because material by Dr Hájková that breached the injunction remained online, The Guardian reported last year.

An article by Dr Hájková, published in an Oxford University Press journal on German history, is now listed as “temporarily withdrawn”.

A letter to the woman’s daughter from Warwick registrar Rachel Sandby-Thomas, outlining the results of the research misconduct investigation, has been seen by Times Higher Education.

It says Dr Hájková should apologise to the prisoner’s daughter for the “distress” caused by their dialogue in 2014. It was previously reported that Dr Hájková promised the daughter that year that she would not use her mother’s full name in her work, but later claimed to have forgotten this pledge.

The Jewish woman met the Nazi guard at a concentration camp in Hamburg in 1944.

Following the outcome, her daughter said: “I’m pleased that the panel has concluded that there was insufficient evidence to claim a physical relationship between my mother and the Nazi guard. After having spoken to my mother and confirmation from a living witness about what happened, I’m certain the ‘relationship’ was never sexual.”

Following its findings, the Warwick panel recommended that the journal article by Dr Hájková should be “reviewed in detail” by her “and a senior academic colleague” to clarify issues including “the position with regards to the non-anonymous use of archives” and “potential factual inconsistencies”; that she should “undertake best endeavours to contact all relevant third parties to ensure that all references made to a physical relationship” between the woman and the guard “are removed from the internet”, with the university overseeing this process; and that she should undergo research integrity training.

The panel also recommends that Warwick “progresses the issues raised within the investigation in a process outside of the research misconduct enquiry”.

Daniel Sokol, the daughter’s barrister, welcomed the panel’s finding of research misconduct.

“It has been a slow process which has taken a heavy toll on my client. We hope the university will honour its commitment to prevent further scholarly misconduct and allow my client to get on with her life,” he said.

A Warwick spokesman confirmed that the panel’s recommendations “have been accepted in their entirety and implemented” but added that since there were “still active processes ongoing in relation to this matter” the university “cannot comment further until those processes are completely concluded”.

In a statement issued by the University and College Union on behalf of Dr Hájková, her caseworker said: “The university’s processes have not yet concluded in regard to this matter, so it is not possible for Dr Hájková to comment on the case at this stage as she, unlike the complainant, is bound by the university’s confidentiality requirements.”

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Research misconduct ruling on historian’s Holocaust affair allegation

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Reader's comments (2)

This is far from the only case of (apparent) misconduct in this field of literature. It is good to see standards of evidence being applied in academia.
So many troubling implications for research and academic freedom. For a fuller story, see http://newfascismsyllabus.com/opinions/in-support-of-difficult-history/

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