Academics in Poland and abroad are furious at a threat by Poland's president to strip an esteemed Polish-American scholar of a state honor in punishment for work that exposes uncomfortable historical episodes of Polish anti-Semitism.

The office of President Andrzej Duda said recently it might strip Princeton-based historian and sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross of the Order of Merit he received in 1996.

It is part of a broader effort by Poland's new conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, to focus on honorable episodes in Polish history and fight any messages that might harm the country's image.

In one open letter, several Polish historians said stripping Gross of the award would represent a threat against "freedom of scholarly research" and political control of freedom of speech.