Jan Grabowski (historian)
Jan Grabowski in 2018
|Born||1962 (age 56–57)|
|Awards||Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research|
|Education||Ph.D. (1994), Université de Montréal|
|Thesis||'The Common Ground. Settled Natives and French in Montréal 1667–1760' (1993)|
|Institutions||University of Ottawa|
|Notable works||Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland (2013)|
|Website||Homepage, University of Ottawa|
Jan Grabowski (born 1962), is a Polish-Canadian professor of history at the University of Ottawa, specializing in Jewish–Polish relations in German-occupied Poland during World War II, and in the Holocaust in Poland.
Co-founder in 2003 of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, Grabowski is best known for his book Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland (2013), which won the Yad Vashem International Book Prize. He was an Ina Levine Invitational Scholar at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016–2017.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Academic career
- 3 Dispute with Daniel Blatman
- 4 Selected works
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early life and education
Grabowski was born in Warsaw, Poland, to a Roman Catholic mother and Jewish father, both Polish. His father, Zbigniew Grabowski, a Holocaust survivor from Kraków and participant in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, became a professor of chemistry.
While at the University of Warsaw, Grabowski was active in the Independent Students' Union between 1981 and 1985, where he helped to run an underground printing press for the Solidarity movement. He received his M.A. in 1986, and in 1988 he emigrated to Canada. Travel restrictions had been eased by Poland's communist government. If he had known the regime would fall a year later, he would have stayed, he told an interviewer: "When I left in 1988 I thought there was no future for any young person in Poland. It felt like you were looking at the world through a thick wall of glass. It was sort of an un-reality ... the rules were oblique, strange, inhuman even. Then after one year the system seemed to collapse like a house of cards." He received his Ph.D. from the Université de Montréal in 1994 for a thesis entitled The Common Ground. Settled Natives and French in Montréal 1667–1760.
In 2016–17 he was an Ina Levine Invitational Scholar at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where he conducted research into the Polish Blue Police for a project entitled "Polish 'Blue' Police, Bystanders, and the Holocaust in Occupied Poland, 1939–1945". Grabowski received a grant for the project (2016–2020) from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Hunt for the Jews
Publication and summary
Grabowski is best known for his book Hunt for the Jews, first published in Poland in 2011 as Judenjagd: Polowanie na Zydow 1942–1945. In 2013 a revised and updated English-language edition was published by Indiana University Press as Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland, and in 2016 a revised and expanded edition was published in Hebrew by Yad Vashem.
Awarded the Yad Vashem International Book Prize in 2014, the book describes the Judenjagd (German: "Jew hunt") from 1942 onwards, focusing on alleged Dąbrowa Tarnowska County, a rural area in southeastern Poland. The Judenjagd was the German search for Jews who had escaped from the liquidated ghettos in Poland and were trying to hide among the non-Jewish population. Grabowski relied on court records from the 1940s in Poland, testimony collected after the war by the Central Committee of Polish Jews, and records gathered by the German justice system during investigations in the 1960s.
"The great majority of Jews in hiding", according to Grabowski in an 11 February 2017 Haaretz interview, "perished as a consequence of betrayal. They were denounced or simply seized, tied up and delivered by locals to the nearest station of the Polish police, or to the German gendarmerie." In the same interview, Grabowski said that Poles were responsible for the deaths, directly or indirectly, of over 200,000 Jews during the Holocaust, and that this is a conservative estimate because it excludes victims of the Blue Police.
In a later, 17 March 2018 Gazeta Wyborcza interview, Grabowski said that, while he believes 200,000 Jews died while hiding, he is unable to determine the exact percentage of that number who perished directly or indirectly due to acts by Poles and that his claim that Poles were responsible for the deaths of over 200,000 Jews is a "research hypothesis", though he continues to believe that Poles were responsible for the majority of that number. Neverthless, in the same interview Grabowski said that the limited number of Polish counties covered in his research might lead other scholars to conclude that his research cannot be used to draw general conclusions.
Reception and controversy
The book sparked a heated public debate, particularly when first published in Poland in 2011. Grabowski received death threats. When a German newspaper reviewed the book favourably in 2015, a right-wing Polish website, Fronda.pl, ran a piece with the headline, "Sieg Heil, Mr. Grabowski", accompanied by a photograph of Joseph Goebbels; Grabowski successfully sued the website's owner for libel.
According to Bogdan Musial, a German-Polish historian writing in 2011, Hunt for the Jews failed to examine material that contradicted Grabowski's thesis, including Polish witness statements, German statements, and archives of the Polish resistance. Musial argued that the book underestimates the number of Jewish survivors while inflating the number of complicit Poles, and that statements made by Poles are criticized while those of Jewish witnesses are not.
Reviewing the book in April 2016, Michael Fleming, a British historian specializing in Polish history, wrote in support of Grabowski, describing criticisms of the book as attempts to "reinstitute the old, discredited heroic narrative of unimpeachable Polish conduct". Arguing that these tales of heroism are common in Europe, he wrote that Grabowski's book is part of a "growing body of corrective scholarship" that discusses the indifference or complicity of European populations; but he also warned readers and reviewers not to "reinforce orientalist narratives about 'Eastern' Europe" or the idea that only populations close to the genocide could stop it, which he calls "fetishiz[ing] spatial proximity".
In 2016 Grabowski published a paper criticizing what he called "the history policy of the Polish state", and arguing that "the state-sponsored version of history seeks to undo the findings of the last few decades and to forcibly introduce a sanitized, feel-good narrative". He has deplored plans for a monument to rescuers of Jews, to be located at Grzybowski Square, which was part of the wartime Warsaw Ghetto; he sees it as an attempt to inflate the role of the rescuers, whom he describes as a "desperate, hunted, tiny minority", the exception to the rule. The ghetto site should be dedicated, he argues, to Jewish suffering, not to Polish courage.
In July 2017 Grabowski criticized the Ulma-Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews in World War II in Markowa, which opened in 2016. The garden will have plaques identifying the 1,500 towns in which the nearly 6,700 Poles lived who helped Jews and were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. In Grabowski's view, the museum should provide more information about the Polish neighbours of the Ulma family and others who aided Jews. Arguing that the number of Poles recognized by Yad Vashem is not representative of the Polish population, and that those who did help Jews feared their neighbours, Grabowski believes that Polish authorities are using the museum to suggest that the "rescue of Jews was widespread in occupied Poland".
In 2016, Poland's embassy in Ottawa criticized Grabowski for "groundless opinions and accusations" after he wrote an article for Maclean's about Poland's controversial amendment to its Act on the Institute of National Remembrance. The amendment would penalize, with imprisonment of up to three years, anyone defaming Poland by accusing it of complicity in the Holocaust, with exceptions for "freedom of research, discussion of history, and artistic activity". In 2018 Grabowski compared the amendment to a pre-1939 Polish law that likewise stipulated punishment for defaming Poland. He told Haaretz that the Holocaust in Poland was "not only a German-Jewish affair": "The assumption that the extermination occurred in outer space, that the Holocaust happened without Polish society becoming aware of this unfortunate event, is simply absolutely false. ... There are no Polish bystanders in the Holocaust."
Grabowski called the Polish government "undemocratic" and "nationalistic" and said that the alleged antisemitism in Poland resembled "the Dark Ages". He called on Israel to refuse dialogue with Poland about the Holocaust until Poland had engaged in "internal discussion".
Statements in opposition and support
On 7 June 2017 the Polish League Against Defamation released a statement signed by 134 Polish scientists protesting Grabowski's "false and wrongful image of Poland and Polish people". The statement was sent to the University of Ottawa and to the publishers of his books and articles. Noting that 6,706 Poles were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations after the war by the State of Israel, it alleged that Grabowski used "vivid and exaggerated statements to create propagandistic constructions, rather than to provide an honest picture". It referred to German efforts to exterminate the Polish population, which made its occupation of Poland different from western Europe's occupation; to numerous examples of Poles' assistance to Jews; and to Poland's international protests at the plight of the Jewish population. It also averred that assistance by Poles was often hindered by Jews' low proficiency in Polish, by mistrust of Jews created by Jews' affiliation with Soviet authorities, and by Orthodox Jews' mistrust of non-Jews.
In response, the Polish Center for Holocaust Research issued a statement of its own a few days later, entitled "In defence of Jan Grabowski's good name". Signed by seven of its members, including Barbara Engelking, Jacek Leociak and Dariusz Libionka, it called the criticism from the Polish League Against Defamation as "brutal as it is absurd", and stated that none of the 134 signatories was a Holocaust historian. The Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa also expressed its full support for Grabowski, referring to his "highly respected scholarship".
On 19 June 2017, some 180 Holocaust historians and other historians of modern European history signed an open letter in Grabowski's defence, addressed to Calin Rovinescu, Chancellor of the University of Ottawa. Describing the campaign against Grabowski as "an attack on academic freedom and integrity", the letter said that "[h]is scholarship holds to the highest standards of academic research and publication", and that the Polish League Against Defamation puts forth a "distorted and whitewashed version of the history of Poland during the Holocaust era". Signatories included Yitzhak Arad, Omer Bartov, Yehuda Bauer, Michael Berenbaum, Randolph L. Braham, Richard Breitman, Christopher Browning, Deborah Dwork, Michael Fleming, Christian Gerlach, Peter Hayes, Deborah Lipstadt, Antony Polonsky, Dina Porat, Alvin H. Rosenfeld and Robert Jan van Pelt.
The Polish Police
In 2017 Grabowski published The Polish Police: Collaboration in the Holocaust, the Ina Levine Annual Lecture delivered on 17 November 2016 at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Grabowski described the wartime German-run force (the "Blue Police"), incorporating dragooned prewar Polish police officers, as a "Polish formation".
Dalej jest noc
In 2018 Grabowski and Barbara Engelking co-edited a two-volume study, Dalej jest noc: losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski (Night Continues: The Fates of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland). Grabowski himself contributed a chapter about Węgrów County (which during World War II was part of a greater German Sokolow Kreishauptmannschaft). The book was criticized for using unreliable sources, for ignoring the nature of the German occupation, for some authors' alleged personal engagements,[clarification needed] for selective treatment of witness statements (scrutinizing Polish witness statements, while taking at face value witness statements which accorded with authors' theses), and for presenting rumors or gossip as actual proven events.[page needed]
Historian Jacek Chrobaczyński wrote that all nine of the book's sections were prepared with the same methodology and style, and he commended the authors for deconstructing political myths and propaganda that partly still persist in Polish history, journalism, church, and politics.
Dispute with Daniel Blatman
In December 2018 Grabowski wrote, together with three other Holocaust historians – Barbara Engelking, Agnieszka Haska, and Jacek Leociak – a Haaretz opinion piece criticizing Israeli historian Daniel Blatman, professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, after Blatman accepted the post of chief historian at the newly-formed Warsaw Ghetto Museum, in Warsaw, Poland. The four historians accused the Warsaw Ghetto Museum of intending to "whitewash history", and Blatman of agreeing to be "the poster boy of state authorities bent on turning back the clock and distorting the history of the Holocaust".
In January 2019 Blatman responded in Haaretz that, while the four scholars, in their research, had provided some valuable insights into involvement in the Holocaust by parts of the Polish population, they had locked into this historical outlook and, unable to move beyond it, had turned it into a "holy crusade with the mission of confronting Polish society with its past in the Holocaust and emphasi[zing] Polish antisemitism". Blatman wrote that their research neglects the broader situation that existed in wartime German-occupied Poland, the terror and violence perpetrated by Nazi policies and actions, and the deaths of Poles, who themselves suffered under German occupation. Blatman concluded that the four researchers' criticism of him was motivated not so much by historical questions as by their fear of losing an aspirational monopoly on the historical debate, and pointed out that, while these historians accused him of collaborating with Poland's "nationalist government", these very same historians rely, for their work, on funds received from that government.
- (2001). Historia Kanady. Warsaw: Prószyński i S-ka. ISBN 978-8372550446 OCLC 169635941
- (2004). "Ja tego Żyda znam!": Szantażowanie Żydów w Warszawie 1939–1943. Warsaw: Wydaw. ISBN 978-8373880580 OCLC 937072035
- (2008). Rescue for Money: Paid Helpers in Poland, 1939-1945. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. ISBN 978-9653083257 OCLC 974380257
- (2010, with Barbara Engelking). Żydów łamiących prawo należy karać śmiercią! "Przestępczość" Żydów w Warszawie, 1939-1942. Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. ISBN 839268317X OCLC 750651880
- (2011, with Barbara Engelking). Zarys krajobrazu: wieś polska wobec zagłady Żydów 1942–1945. Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. ISBN 978-8393220243 OCLC 761074409
- (2011). Judenjagd: Polowanie na Zydow 1942–1945. Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. ISBN 978-8393220236 OCLC 715338569
- (2014, with Dariusz Libionka, eds.). Klucze i kasa: o mieniu żydowskim w Polsce pod okupacją niemiecką i we wczesnych latach powojennych, 1939–1950. Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. ISBN 978-8363444358 OCLC 892600909
- (2017). "The Polish police: Collaboration in the Holocaust". Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Ina Levine annual lecture, 17 November 2016).
- (2018, co-edited with Barbara Engelking), Dalej jest noc: losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski (Night Continues: the Fates of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland), Warsaw, Poland, Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów (Polish Center for Holocaust Research), 2 volumes (1,640 pp.), ISBN 978-8363444648 OCLC 1041616741.
- "Jan Grabowski", University of Ottawa.
- "Professor Jan Grabowski wins the 2014 Yad Vashem International Book Prize", Yad Vashem, 4 December 2014.
- "Fellow Dr. Jan Grabowski". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- Snyder, Donald (12 January 2015). "The Summer Polish Jews Were Hunted" (interview with Jan Grabowski). The Forward.
- Aderet, Ofer (11 February 2017). "'Orgy of Murder': The Poles Who 'Hunted' Jews and Turned Them Over to the Nazis". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 1 May 2018.
- "Zbigniew Ryszard Grabowski" (in Polish). nekrologi.wyborcza.pl. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
- Lough, Shannon (26 February 2014). "Twenty-five years since the fall of communism in Poland". davidmckie.com.
- "The Common Ground. Settled Natives and French in Montréal 1667-1760". Université du Québec à Montréal.
- Grabowski, Jan (April 2017). "The Polish Police Collaboration in the Holocaust" (PDF). United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 February 2018.
- "Funded Research Projects", Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa.
- Grabowski, Jan (2011). Judenjagd: polowanie na Żydów 1942-1945: studium dziejów pewnego powiatu. Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. ISBN 978-8393220236. OCLC 715338569.
- Grabowski, Jan (2013). Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0253010742. OCLC 868951735.
- Grabowski, Jan (2016). ציד היהודים; בגידה ורצח בפולין בימי הכיבוש הגרמני. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. ISBN 978-9653085312 OCLC 993142125
- Grabowski 2013, p. 3.
- Tzur, Nissan (18 October 2013). "Holocaust writer Grabowski faces Polish fury", Jewish Chronicle.
- Grabowski 2013, p. 1.
- Fleming, Michael (April 2016). "Jan Grabowski, Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland". European History Quarterly. 46 (2): 357–359. doi:10.1177/0265691416637313r.
- University of Ottawa holocaust historian sues Polish group for libel, CJN, Paul Lungen, 22 November 2018: "From among the approximately 250,000 Polish Jews who had escaped liquidations of the ghettos and who had fled, about 40,000 survived. We have thus more than 200,000 Jews who fled the liquidations and who did not survive until liberation. My findings show that in the overwhelming majority of cases, their Polish co-citizens were – directly through murder, or indirectly by denunciation – at the root of their deaths."
- "Ale Historia: Prof. Jan Grabowski: Pomagaliśmy Niemcom zabijać Żydów", Gazeta Wyborcza, 17 March 2018: "A więc... ok. 200 tys. Żydów zostało zamordowanych, gdy się ukrywali po aryjskiej stronie?" – "Tak, i na podstawie szczegółowej analizy tego, w jakich okolicznościach ginęli, sformułowałem hipotezę badawczą, że większość – choć nie jestem na tym etapie badań w stanie powiedzieć, czy było to 60, czy 90 proc. – straciła życie z rąk Polaków albo przy ich współudziale." ("So... 200,000 Jews were murdered while hiding on the Aryan side?" – "Yes, and based on detailed analysis of the circumstances in which they perished, I formulated a research hypothesis that the majority – though at this stage of research I am not able to say whether it was 60 or 90 percent – lost their lives at the hands of Poles or with their complicity.")
- "Ale Historia: Prof. Jan Grabowski: Pomagaliśmy Niemcom zabijać Żydów", Gazeta Wyborcza, 17 March 2018: "Bo ja te szacunki uważam za wiarygodne, ale jest to wyłącznie moje zdanie. Inni mogą sądzić, że dziesięć przebadanych powiatów to zbyt mało, aby ważyć się na jakiekolwiek uogólnienia.... Gdy skończyłem pracę nad powiatem Dąbrowa Tarnowska, zarzucano mi, że tak wąski teren badań nie daje podstaw do uogólnień... Ale to, że badacze mają różne koncepcje, jest naturalne." ("I believe these estimates to be reliable, but that is solely my opinion. Others might conclude that the ten counties [that I] studied are too few to venture any conclusions from.... When I had finished my work on Dabrowa Tarnowska County, [critics said] that such a small [geographical] area... provides no basis for generalizations... But it is only natural for investigators to have differing views.")
- Caus, Jessica (9 June 2015). "So halfen polnische Bauern beim Judenmord". Die Welt.
- Musial, Bogdan (2011). "Judenjagd—'umiejętne działanie' czy zbrodnicza perfidia?". Dzieje Najnowsze (in Polish). 43 (2).
- Grabowski, Jan (6 January 2017). "The Holocaust and Poland's 'History Policy'". Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. 10(3), pp. 481–486.
- Snyder, Don (17 April 2013). "Poland Plans Monument to Righteous Gentiles on Site of Warsaw Ghetto", Forward.
- Snyder, Donald (27 April 2014). "Poland's Dueling Holocaust Monuments to 'Righteous Gentiles' Spark Painful Debate", Forward.
- Gieroń, Aneta (21 July 2017). "Przy Muzeum Ulmów w Markowej powstaje Sad Pamięci". Biznesistyl.
- Aderet, Ofer (22 March 2016). "Polish Museum Honoring Poles Who Saved Jews Arouses Controversy", Haaretz.
- Graowski, Jan (20 September 2016). "The danger in Poland’s frontal attack on its Holocaust history". Maclean's.
"The Polish Embassy in Ottawa responds to Jan Grabowski". Macleans, 30 September 2016.
- Zieve, Tamara (20 February 2018). "Polish historian: Penalties for new Polish law resemble pre-war punishment". Jerusalem Post.
- "Communique of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on amendment of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Poland.
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Stoffel, Derek (20 February 2018). "Canadian historian joins uproar in Israel over Polish Holocaust law", CBC News.
- Grabowski, Jan "Polski historyk Jan Grabowski ostrzega Izrael przed dialogiem z Polską" Rzeczpospolita 20 February 2018
- "The standpoint of Polish scholars affiliated with the Polish League Against Defamation on the activities of Jan Grabowski" (PDF). Polish League Against Defamation. 7 June 2017.
- "PLAD publishes a statement concerning the activities of Jan Grabowski" (PDF). Polish League Against Defamation. 7 June 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 August 2018.
- "In defence of Jan Grabowski's good name" (PDF). Polish Center for Holocaust Research. 10 June 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 August 2018.
- "Statement on Attacks against Professor Jan Grabowski". University of Ottawa Human Rights Research and Education Centre. Archived from the original on 23 August 2018.
- "Solidarity with Jan Grabowski". michael-wildt.de. 19 June 2017. Archived from the original on 23 August 2018.
Gera, Vanessa (20 June 2017). "International historians defend Ottawa scholar who studies Poland and Holocaust", The Associated Press.
Perkel, Colin (20 June 2017). "University of Ottawa scholar says he's a target of Polish 'hate' campaign". The Canadian Press.
- Grabowski, Jan The Polish police : collaboration in the Holocaust United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2017
- Tomasz Domański, Korekta obrazu? Refleksje źródłoznawcze wokół książki "Dalej jest noc. Losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski" ("Corrected Picture? Reflections on Sources in the Book, Night Continues: The Fates of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland"), IPN, Polish-Jewish Studies, 2019.
- Tomasz Roguski, "Dalej jest noc. Losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski, red. Barbara Engelking i Jan Grabowski" ("Night Continues: The Fates of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland, edited by Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski"), Glaukopis, no. 36, pp. 335-356.
-  "Ukazały się kolejne trzy recenzje IPN na temat publikacji "Dalej jest noc" ("Three More IPN Reviews of Dalej jest noc Have Appeared"), Dzieje.pl, 21.02.19 (21 February 2019).
- Dawid Golik, "Nowatorska noc. Kilka uwag na marginesie artykułu Karoliny Panz" ("Innovative Night: A Few Remarks Relating to Karolina Panz's Article"), Zeszyty Historyczne WiN-u, no. 47, 2018, pp. 109-134.
- Jacek Borkowicz, " "Wraca spór o udział w zagładzie" ("Dispute over Participation in the Holocaust Returns"), Rzeczpospolita, 10 February 2019.
- Jacek Chrobaczyński, "Osaczeni, samotni, bezbronni... Refleksje po lekturze książki Dalej jest noc. Losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski" ("Cornered, Alone, Defenseless... Reflection on Reading the Book Dalej jest noc. Losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski") (Polish with English abstract; 2 volumes), pod redakcją Barbary Engelking i Jana Grabowskiego (edited by Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski), Warszawa, 2018", Res Gestae 6, 2018, pp. 266-301.
- Grabowski, Jan; Engelking, Barbara; Haska, Agnieszka; Leociak, Jacek (24 December 2018). "Why Is This Israeli Jewish Scholar a Willing Poster Boy for Poland's Brutal Distortion of the Holocaust?". Haaretz.
- Blatman, Daniel (4 January 2019). "Warsaw Ghetto Museum Historian: A Tale of History, Force and Narrow Horizons". Haaretz.
- Homepage, University of Ottawa.
- "Jan Grabowski", Polish Center for Holocaust Research.
- Grabowski, Jan (29 and 30 January 2018). Bogdanow Lectures in Holocaust Studies '18, University of Manchester.
- Grabowski, Jan (4 May 2018). "Poland must remember the truth of the Warsaw uprising", The Globe and Mail.