Poland’s Jews Call for Government Condemnation of “Rise in Anti-semitic Attitudes”

Leaders of Poland’s Jewish community have written an open letter the backbench MP who leads the country’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, calling for his condemnation of what they describe as a “rise in anti-semitic attitudes” accompanied by “aggressive hate speech” and “violent behaviour”.

poland_news_racismSigned by Anna Chipczyńska, president of the board of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, and Lesław Piszewski, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, the letter asks PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński for his support and understanding in the face of increasingly public displays of anti-Jewish feeling.

Last year, Piotr Rybak made headlines worldwide after being convicted of setting fire to an effigy dressed in Hasidic Jewish costume (pictured), during an anti-immigration demonstration in Wrocław organised by the extreme right wing National Radical Camp (ONR). While the letter does not refer specifically to this incident, it does call attention to several other more recent issues.

The letter reads:

“Dear Mr Chairman,

“We would like to express our concern regarding the rise of anti-semitic attitudes in recent months, accompanied by aggressive hate speech and violent behaviour that are directed towards our community.

“We are appalled with the recent events and fearful for our security as the situation in our country is becoming more dangerous. We are reminded of the worst episodes in our history by rise of anti-semitism in a public debate, pointing out Jewish roots of the ancestors of Senator Marek Borowski by Polish Television journalist Magdalena Ogórek, [and] fascist slogans and flags of the ONR Falanga at the state ceremonies. A few days ago, parliament member Bogdan Rzońca from Law and Justice presented his absurd and humiliating views on social media: ‘(…) I wonder why, despite the Holocaust, there are so many abortionists among Jews’. It showed complete lack of sensitivity and lack of knowledge about the Holocaust.

“We do not agree to this. Poland is our home and we refuse to feel unwanted, but recently we get that impression more and more often. The violent attack on Israeli athletes that took place a few days ago, was motivated by anti-semitism. It showed that anti-semitism is no longer expressed only with words, but also with actions. We fear for our security and future, we do not want ’68 to repeat.

“When you spoke in Białystok during the ceremony commemorating the annihilation of the city’s Jewish community 14 months ago, we felt reassured. We hoped that you will support our community, [and] that we can count on your understanding of our history and present situation.

“It would be extremely important to us if you would strongly and decisively condemn anti-semitism and express your support for our community”.

In response to the letter, Mr Kaczyński met with other representatives of Jews in Poland – all broadly supportive of his party and most not Polish. After the meeting, attendee Artur Hofman, who heads the TSKZ cultural organisation of Polish Jews, accused the authors of political partisanship and called their words “stupid”. He said Poland was safer for Jews and friendlier to Israel than Germany, France, Sweden and most other European countries.

He added: “The letter is part of a political war. Maybe these people from the Jewish community, they have other political positions, therefore they are looking for something to do against this party, which is now the ruling party”.

Ms Chipczyńska responded by saying that it was the duty of community leaders in Poland to speak out when they perceived a growing threat of right-wing radicalism”.

Two years ago, the Catholic Church in Poland published an open letter telling the faithful that anti-semitism was a “sin”, and condemning the “indifference… of a certain section of Christians” towards the fate of Jews during the Holocaust.