THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
There are some 5,000–10,000 Jews in Poland out of a total population of close to 40 million. Most Jews live in Warsaw, Wroclaw, Krakow and Lodz, but there are smaller communities in several other cities. There are virtually no Jews in the eastern part of Poland where once large, important communities existed, such as those of Lublin and Bialystok.
The Union of Jewish Religious Communities (Zwiazek Kongregacji Wyznania Mojzeszowego), or Kehilla, and the secular Jewish Socio-Cultural Society (Towarsztwo Spoleczno-Kulturalne Zydowskie), or Ferband, are the two leading communal organizations and these, together with other Jewish groups, are linked by membership in the KKOZRP, which acts as an umbrella organization.
There is a Jewish primary school in Warsaw maintained by the Lauder Foundation, which has been active in rehabilitating Jewish life in Poland, especially through youth projects, including summer and winter camps. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is also active in Poland, particularly in social welfare activities. The leading Jewish publications are the monthly Midrasz, Dos Jidische Wort, Jidele for youth and Sztendlach for primary school children. Significantly, all of these publications appear in Polish, except for Dos Jidische Wort which is published in a bi-lingual Yiddish-Polish edition.
Other important institutions are the Jewish Historical Institute (which opened its revamped museum in June 2000), E.R. Kaminska State Yiddish Theater in Warsaw and the Jewish Cultural Center in Krakow. There are centers for Jewish studies in Warsaw University and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. At the beginning of 2000, it was announced that the first Polish chair of Holocaust studies would be established at the University of Gdansk. Plans are proceeding to build an inter-active museum of Polish Jewry in Warsaw.
In April 2001, President Kwasniewski vetoed legislation that would have provided for the restoration of private property to Polish citizens only – clearly discriminating against Jewish claimants, the great majority of whom are not domiciled in Poland and are not Polish citizens. In the absence of legislation, no mechanism yet exists that would provide for the return of private assets and the matter continues to be the subject of national and international debate. Jewish factionalism has interrupted the smooth functioning of the fund created to retrieve Jewish communal assets.
POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS AND EXTRA-PARLIMENTARY GROUPS
The extreme right in Poland comprises numerous small groups, among them an estimated 15,000 activists. Hopes for the creation of a strong, independent, nationalist political movement patterned after Haider’s FPÖ in Austria were not fulfilled in 2000. However, the extreme right has maintained and developed its own social and cultural activities, with bases extending from the sports stadium to the university. Some extreme right activists maintain relations with respected mainstream politicians.
Nationalist candidates who attempted to run for the presidency in the October elections without the support of the conservative right received only a handful of votes. The most aggressively antisemitic candidate, the independent businessman Roman Pawlowski, received 0.1 percent of the vote. The former Solidarity leader and president Lech Walesa received little support. During the election campaign he resorted to antisemitic comments directed against the incumbent Social Democrat (former Communist) Aleksander Kwasniewski. On 7 July 2000 Walesa suggested Kwasniewski had no right to take part in a pilgrimage to the Vatican because of his allegedly Jewish descent. On a campaign stop in Bialystok Walesa voiced his opposition to antisemitism but proclaimed that he himself was sorry he was not of Jewish origin because then “I would probably be richer.” Walesa, once a national hero credited with bringing down the communist regime, received a mere one per cent of the vote, while Kwasniewski obtained 54 percent, which gave the president a first-round victory.
The most dynamic antisemitic organization, Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski (National Rebirth of Poland – NOP), led by Adam Gmurczyk, is a part of the International Third Position (see United Kingdom). The party claims to be an incarnation of the pre-war extreme right-wing group Oboz Narodowo-Radykalny (National Radical Camp – ONR). As in 1999, in the summer of 2000 the NOP hosted extreme right activists from several countries, including from the German extreme right NPD, at an annual paramilitary and ideological training meeting in Duszniki-Zdroj. NOP membership is estimated at several hundred, consisting mainly of skinheads. The organization is primarily active at the grass-roots level and one of its preferred recruiting grounds is the football stadium. The NOP draws its strength from the antisemitic sub-culture active in the stadiums, where rival gangs routinely call each other’s clubs “Jewish” as a term of abuse.
The NOP continues to publish its magazine Szczerbiec (The Sword), financed partly by supporters in Western countries, which devotes considerable space to virulent antisemitism, some in the form of Holocaust denial or distortion. According to NOP leader Adam Gmurczyk, the co-publishers of Szczerbiec are Roberto Fiore of the Italian Forza Nuova and Derek Holland from the ITP. Financial help comes from the self-styled Polish Historical Institute in the US, led by Miroslaw Dragan. The NOP is also involved in the neo-Nazi skinhead music scene. During the presidential campaign the NOP supported Jan Lopuszanski, an MP and head of Porozumienie Polskie (Polish Alliance – PP) (see below). Lopuszanski is known for his opposition to Polish membership in NATO and in the European Union as well as for his open admiration of Austria’s Jörg Haider.
A similar but smaller organization is Wojciech Podjacki’s Związek Białego Orła (White Eagle Union – ZBO), which has been involved in assaults on left-wing meetings in Gdansk and Chelm and repeatedly uses antisemitic slogans.
Obsessive antisemitism and neo-paganism are the hallmarks of the Polska Wspolnota Narodowa–Polskie Stronnictwo Narodowe (Polish National Community– Polish National Party) led by former Marxist sociologist Boleslaw Tejkowski, who once suggested that Pope John Paul II was actually a clandestine Jew. In 2000 it established some contacts in the ecology movement, such as with Zielone Brygady (Green Brigades) magazine. A newly formed alliance of “green” activists and extreme rightists/racists is called Confederation for Our Earth (Konfederacja dla Naszej Ziemi – KNZ).
The Niklot Association, a nationalist pagan member of KNZ, led by the former leftist Tomasz Szczepanski, is a small but growing organization which recruits its members from the skinhead and Black Metal music sub-cultures. Its ideology is based on the pre-war Zadruga group, which sto purge Poland of “Judeo-Christianity.” Szczepanski was a member of the electoral campaign committee of General Tadeusz Wilecki (see below) who ran for the presidency. In July 2000 he was shown on the cover of the weekly Wprost with a group of his supporters giving the Hitler salute. In December 2000 a Warsaw court upheld the claim of the anti-fascist journalist Marcin Kornak that Niklot was “chauvinist and antisemitic.” Niklot cooperates with the New Right group Zakorzenienie (Rootedness), led by former anarchist Remigiusz Okraska and long-time extreme right activist Jaroslaw Tomasiewicz.
Mlodziez Wszechpolska (All-Polish Youth – MW) is a nationalist Catholic youth movement based on the tradition of a pre-war group of the same name. In the 1920s and 1930s the MW was responsible for numerous acts of violence (including murders) against Jewish students at Polish universities, most notably in Lwow. Today the MW consists largely of skinheads but it also has close ties with certain Roman Catholic clergymen (for example, it has its own weekly program on the Catholic fundamentalist Radio Maryja – see below) and with certain right-wing parliamentarians. Despite basic ideological differences, the MW has also collaborated with Niklot on a number of occasions.
The MW is linked to the Stronnictwo Narodowe (National Party – SN), whose ideology derives from that of the pre-war antisemitic Endecja (National Democratic) movement led by Roman Dmowski. The SN in its present shape was created in April 2000 out of a merger of two previously rival nationalist parties. It is now led by Boguslaw Kowalski, who served as spokesman of former President Lech Walesa in 1995. The SN supported General Tadeusz Wilecki, former chief of staff of the Polish army, as its presidential candidate. Wilecki demanded, inter alia, that all other candidates prove their Polish ancestry to the fifth generation and praised the housing policy of Adolf Hitler. Despite high expectations he received only 0.16 percent of the vote. The SN is not represented in parliament, but has close ties with the small parliamentary party Stronnictwo Polskiej Racji Stanu (Reason of State Party – SPRS), as well as with the Konfederacja Polski Niepodległej–Ojczyzna (Confederation of an Independent Poland–Fatherland – KPN-O, or Alternative Social Movement). The KPN-O hosted a deputy leader of the French FN in December 2000 and announced its plans to invite leader Jean-Marie Le Pen to visit Poland in 2001. The SN also has good relations with senior members of the influential Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish Peasant Party – PSL).
Another party claiming the tradition of National Democracy is the Zjednoczenie Chrzescijansko–Narodowe (Christian National Union – ZCh-N) More moderate than the SN, it is a member of the mainstream right-wing ruling bloc Akcja Wyborcza Solidarnosc (Electoral Action Solidarity – AWS) and is represented in the government. The party avoids expressions of blatant antisemitism, but xenophobic statements can still be found in some party bulletins. In April 2000 party spokesman Michal Kaminski caused a minor scandal after his public declaration of support for the infamous slogan “Poland for Poles,” which is traditionally directed against Jews and other ethnic minorities. Also, in 2000, a group of former activists of the MW became members of the ZCh-N.
The Porozumienie Polskie (Polish Alliance – PP) party is led by presidential candidate Jan Lopuszanski, formerly of the ZCh-N. Initially supported by the influential Radio Maryja, the PP lost much of its appeal after Lopuszanski fell out with Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, the founder of the station, which transferred its support to the conservative right candidate. As a result, Lopuszanski received only 0.8 per cent of the vote.
PP member of parliament Witold Tomczak stirred controversy in December 2000 when he protested against an exhibition featuring an avant garde (and to many, rather offensive) sculpture of the Pope at a Warsaw state-owned art gallery. In an open letter, Tomczak called for the dismissal of the gallery’s director, Anda Rottenberg, suggesting, in a clear reference to Rottenberg’s Jewish origins, that she spent the taxpayers’ money in Israel rather than in Poland. Many Church figures claimed they did not find the exhibition offensive, but on 11 January 2001 Tomczak wrote another open letter, again calling for Rottenberg’s dismissal, signed by himself and 90 other right-wing MPs (out of a total of 460 members of the Sejm – parliament).
The Prawica Narodowa (National Right – PN) is a tiny extremist group that has been very successful in infiltrating the mainstream right. The PN was formed in the mid-1990s as a radical antisemitic and racist organization modeled on the French FN, whose publications featured, inter alia, Holocaust-denying articles written by the late Leon Degrelle, the commander of the Belgian SS legion during the war. Since then the PN as a group has joined the ranks of the AWS and some of its leaders currently occupy important government posts. Marcin Libicki, chairman of the Polish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, is both a member of the PN and of the newly formed conservative Porozumienie Prawicy (Alliance of the Right).
The tiny Stronnictwo Polityki Realnej (Real Politics Party – SPR) is another extreme right member of the AWS. The SPR, led by Mariusz Dzierzawski, was created after a split in the Unia Polityki Realnej (Real Politics Union – UPR). Its activities have included organizing joint street actions with the militant extreme right NOP. Its ideological mouthpiece is the magazine Stanczyk, which promotes thinly veiled antisemitism and Holocaust denial.
The skinhead Narodowa Scena Rockowa (National Rock Scene – NSR) produces racist records and T-shirts and organizes concerts of Polish and foreign bands. In 2000, neo-Nazi bands from Great Britain and Russia gave guest performances in Szczecin and Jawor. NSR also publish books, using the label of the Rekonkwista publishing house. One recent title justifies Narodowe Sily Zbrojne (National Armed Forces – NSZ), a far right organization of the 1940s. The book was published with financial support from the Warsaw University Students’ Union, as well as from the State Office for Ex-combatants.
Skinheads and other extremist groups have increasingly looked to the Internet as a vehicle for spreading racist ideology: some extreme right fanzines have moved to the Internet, which is both cheaper and more effective in reaching the wider youth scene.
ANTISEMITIC AND RACIST ACTIVITIES
Several Jewish cemeteries and synagogues were desecrated in 2000 (for example, in Lodz, Krakow, Wlodawa, Oswiecim, Wadowice, Tarnobrzeg, Swidnica, Lelow). However, the main victims of extremist violence in 2000 were Roma and anti-fascist youth.
Antisemitic graffiti reappeared in many cities and towns across Poland, despite campaigns to remove it. For example, in Lodz in March 2000, immediately following a much publicized campaign to clean antisemitic slogans off the city’s walls, neo-Nazis daubed antisemitic graffiti and party symbols of the NOP on the synagogue and on the home of Marek Edelman, the last surviving commander of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising (see ASW 1999/2000).
The xenophobic Radio Maryja has hundreds of thousands of Catholic listeners daily throughout Poland. Although it can be argued that a majority of the station’s audience are attracted by the religious rather than the political content, it remains an important political force since it frequently allows members of extremist organizations to broadcast their political message (see also ASW 1999/2000).
Antisemitic undertones can be found in various publications, from serious quarterlies such as Fronda (sponsored by the Ministry of Culture) to the daily Nasz Dziennik (connected to Radio Maryja). For several years Fronda has had its own program on Channel 1 of public television. Antisemitic periodicals include Szczerbiec, Stanczyk, Mysl Polska and Nasza Polska, as well as various low-brow titles published by Leszek Bubel. Bubel, head of the marginal Polska Partia Naradowa (Polish Party), offered the sum of $25,000 to Henryk Biedrzycki, whose grandfather owned the barn where many of the Jedwabne Jews were burned, in order to give the land to a group of Jedwabne villagers who deny that Poles massacred their neighbors. Bubel has published books alleging Jews were guilty of crimes against Poles, which are distributed by the state-owned publishing company Ruch.
Antisemitic, Holocaust distorting, as well as Holocaust denying, books published by Rekonkwista, Rachocki, Nortom or Antyk can often be found on the shelves of respectable bookshops. After intervention by the anti-fascist Never Again Association, antisemitic publications of the Nortom publishing house were removed from the official Polish exhibition at the international book fair in Frankfurt/Main in November 2000. Nevertheless, Nortom’s books are still regularly exhibited at numerous book fairs organized in Poland. In December 2000 Norbert Tomczyk, owner and director of the publishing house and one of the leaders of the SN, was re-elected a member of the Board of Control of the Polish Chamber of Book Publishers.
On 9 November 2000 NOP members confronted participants of a vigil organized in Wroclaw by the Polish Union of Jewish Students and various other groups to commemorate victims of Kristallnacht. The NOP members bore anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli slogans and claimed their action to be in support of the Palestinian intifada.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
In December 1999 the local court in Opole declared that Dr. Dariusz Ratajczyk, a researcher at the University of Opole, had infringed the law against Holocaust denial in his book Tematy niebezpeieczne (Dangerous Topics), but that his crime was “socially harmless” (see ASW 1999/2000). Two liberal mainstream newspapers Gazeta Wyborcza (Electoral Gazette) and Rzeczpospolita (Republic) thought that Ratajczyk should not be prosecuted, in the name of freedom of speech. Ratajczyk was accompanied in court by the notorious antisemitic activist Kazimierz Switon (well known for having planted crosses at Auschwitz) and by the publisher Leszek Bubel. The latter was quick to profit from the publicity surrounding the case and issued a pocket edition of the book, which was distributed widely by the state company Ruch. Several days after the verdict Ratajczyk was the guest at a political meeting organized by the SN. It should be noted that both Ratajczyk and Ryszard Bender (see below) were roundly condemned by the academic community in Poland and by the Archbishop of Lublin.
After months of deliberating, the University of Opole finally dismissed Ratajczyk from his academic post. Ryszard Bender, professor of history at the Catholic University of Lublin, had been defending Ratajczak in a regular column published in Glos, a radical right-wing weekly published by Antoni Macierewicz, a former minister of home affairs and currently a member of parliament. Disciplinary proceedings were begun against Bender after he, together with Ratajczyk and a historian of the Polish Church Peter Raina, participated in a Radio Maryja broadcast in January 2000, but no action was taken against him.
Holocaust denial has found support in the right-wing weeklies Mysl Polska and Najwyzszy Czas. The former published an open letter of a group of right-wing academics signed, inter alia, by Andrzej L. Szczesniak, author of numerous history textbooks, some of which were tainted with antisemitism.
Several weeks after the Radio Maryja broadcast, the anti-fascist magazine Nigdy Wiecej (Never Again) exposed the fact that Bellona, a state-owned publishing house of the Ministry of Defense, intended to put out a translation of British Holocaust denier David Irving’s biography of Hermann Göring. Public pressure forced Bellona to cancel both the book and a planned promotional trip by Irving to Poland in the spring of 2000. However, the publishing house still employs Bartlomiej Zborski, the first translator of Irving’s books into Polish and a regular antisemitic contributor to the NOP’s Szczerbiec, the main forum for Holocaust deniers in Poland.
Intensification of debates on issues concerning the Jews in general, and the wartime history of Polish-Jewish relations in particular, has not only led to a polarization of attitudes but has highlighted patterns of prejudice structurally present in Polish culture. There were many more incidents of verbal abuse than in the previous year. The most intense debate was sparked by the publication of Neighbors, by the Polish-born New York university professor Jan T. Gross and the film of the same name by Agnieszka Arnold. According to some observers, grassroots antisemitism has been exacerbated by the revelations contained in the Gross book, which describes the slaughter in the town of Jedwabne in 1941 that claimed the lives of up to 1,600 Jews by local Poles and which challenges the long-held and nearly universal perception of Poles as victims and not as perpetrators. The book and the revelations that similar massacres took place in some other Polish villages, have been the subject of numerous articles and heated discussions in the Polish press, including on the pages of the leading dailies Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita. Some of the articles were apologetic and even antisemitic and hinted that Jewish collaboration with Soviet troops before 1941, during the 1939–June 1941 occupation, could serve as an explanation and even as a justification for the pogrom. To some extent this view has been propagated by the Roman Catholic primate Cardinal Glemp (who also compared Jedwabne to “bloodshed among neighbors in Palestine”) and the Jedwabne parish priest Edward Orlowski, but has been attacked by others, including Jozef Zycinski, archbishop of Lublin, in the liberal Catholic monthly Wiez.
Research and public discussions are an important part of Poland’s reckoning with the antisemitic elements of its past, which until recently remained relatively unknown to the wider public. It should be pointed out that Polish publications have striven to “prove” that the Germans were to blame for the killings, not local Poles who were coerced into violence. It was also claimed that the Jews got their just desserts because of their role in imposing Stalinist rule in Poland. On the other hand, on 27 May 2001 the Polish Episcopate publicly apologized to God for the sins perpetrated against the Jews in Jedwabne and elsewhere. That apology was tempered by Cardinal Glemp’s suggestion that Jews apologize to Poles for their role in imposing communism on Poland and for the atrocities committed by Jewish members of the hated secret police in the Stalinist years. Father Henryk Jankowski, the Gdansk priest and ally of Lech Walesa, who has a long record of vituperative remarks against Jews, was roundly condemned by the mainstream media for displaying in his church a model of the Jedwabne barn in which Jews were burned and suggesting that the crime never happened.
Significantly, the inscription on the new monument to be unveiled in July 2001 is sufficiently ambiguous to leave doubts as to who the perpetrators of the slaughter at Jedwabne were. It does not clearly state that the murders were perpetrated by local Poles as Jewish circles had hoped.
Ryszard Bugaj, a respected intellectual of the Polish left, provided evidence of deeply embedded patterns of prejudice in an article published in the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza in January 2001, in which he warned that Gross’ book strengthened an unjust stereotype of an antisemitic Poland and served powerful interests of Jews who have material claims against Poland in the context of the proposed law on re-privatization. Bugaj ignored the fact that the bill (mentioned above) excludes from compensation former owners who were not considered Polish citizens in 1999 (in practice mainly Polish Jews – Holocaust survivors who emigrated from 1939 on). The Polish Foreign Ministry had asked the parliament not to exclude non-citizens from compensation, but the AWS faction enforced an amendment to that effect proposed by the ZCh-N.
Similarly, the widespread reaction of the right-wing press to the revelatioon Jedwabne was to link them with material claims of “the international Jewish lobby.” To support this thesis, Norman Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry was commonly quoted (see Germany). Finkelstein himself gave interviews to a number of antisemitic magazines (for example, the weekly Nasza Polska) repeating his claim of a conspiracy of international Jewish organizations that aimed at humiliating and exploiting European nations, among which Poland was one of the most vulnerable, and warned Poland to be vigilant against an impending Jewish assault. (Nasza Polska also strongly condemned the chapter on Poland in ASW 1999/2000).
Other ongoing controversies, involving representatives of international Jewish organizations, concern the appropriate commemoration of sites linked to the Holocaust. These include the opening of a disco in the former tannery building adjacent to the Auschwitz camp and plans to build dwelling units on the site of the Umschlagplatz in Warsaw, the point of departure of Jews to death camps.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTISEMITISM
The year 2000 witnessed contradictory messages from the nation’s leadership regarding antisemitism and racism. On the one hand, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek participated in the March of the Living and condemned antisemitism on a number of occasions, not least during his February visit to Israel when he promised to stamp out antisemitism at sporting events. On the other hand, he nominated Krzysztof Kawecki, leader of the extreme right PN, to the post of deputy minister of education responsible for sports. Kawecki was the editor of Prawica Narodowa that published Holocaust-denying material written by Leon Degrelle.
It may be argued that the prolonged toleration of wide-ranging racist activities of the NOP and other extremist groups by the political establishment is simply a sign of tacit approval of the presence of antisemitic organizations as an integral part of the political system. It has become “normal” for radical political discontent to be expressed through antisemitic discourse, which is seen as legitimate by some sections of the cultural and political establishment. It is not uncommon to deny the increase, or even the existence, of antisemitism in Poland even in the face of evidence of open antisemitism. For example, in 2000 right-wing chairman of the Polish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Marcin Libicki (see above), criticized a report on extremism, claiming there was no extremism in Poland. He was supported by the remaining members of the Polish delegation, including representatives of the center and the left. Similarly, the Polish government reacted angrily to the 2000 report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) because it stated that antisemitism “remains a problem in Polish society.” Another instance of disproportionate reaction against those who question the validity of the claim that Poland is a country without antisemitism was the fierce debate that followed Sergiusz Kowalski’s May 2000 article in Gazeta Wyborcza, which gave examples of collaboration between the extreme right and the mainstream right. The conservative daily Zycie is particularly zealous in condemning those who speak out against antisemitism.
The results of legal actions against racism and antisemitism in 2000 were mixed. Polish law, including the penal code, has provisions against hate speech as well as against Holocaust denial. Nevertheless, the judicial system seems highly reluctant to use the law against perpetrators of hate crimes. The trial of Dariusz Ratajczyk, discussed above, closed without a serious outcome. One of the most notorious Polish antisemites, Kazimierz Switon, received a suspended six months jail sentence in January 2000 for distributing antisemitic leaflets at Auschwitz in 1998. In June this sentence was reduced to one month. In February charges against Switon for planting explosives in the neighborhood of the Auschwitz camp were dropped by the state prosecutor. Finally, in December 2000 the court acquitted Switon of earlier charges of incitement. On leaving the court Switon pledged to continue his struggle against “Jewish chauvinists.” In April 2000 the state prosecutor in Warsaw rejected a request from the Ombudsman’s Office to investigate the activities of Leszek Bubel, the publisher of antisemitic literature, including a pocket edition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Holocaust denial material (distributed also by the state company Ruch). After further intervention an investigation was finally launched but has progressed extremely slowly.
There were, however, some important legal cases with a more positive outcome. Most notably, at least three investigations were launched – in Kielce, Lodz and Rzeszow – regarding antisemitic material on the Internet. The Kielce investigation ended in May 2000 in a trial and a ten months suspended sentence.
The Office for the Protection of the State prevented several gatherings of neo-Nazi skinheads (in Olsztyn and Lublin), but many similar events, although reported to the police, went ahead as planned without interference by the authorities. The NOP, in particular, has been able to continue its activities unhindered despite the fact that its sister organization, the NPD, was likely to be banned in Germany.
In April 2000, in reaction to the March incident in Lodz (see above), Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek promised to take legal action against the NOP (on the basis of Article 13 of the constitution, which prohibits racist organizations) as well as to stop the distribution of antisemitic literature by Ruch. No such action was subsequently taken, possibly because right-wing elements within the ruling bloc depend on the support of Radio Maryja and nationalist MPs, inter alia, who took part in protests against “the conspiracy to silence the patriotic press.”
The newly established Institute for National Memory has pledged to carry out a thorough investigation of all crimes perpetrated against Polish citizens (irrespective of their nationality or religion) under Nazism and communism, and irrespective of the nationality and religion of the perpetrators. Significantly, Dr Leon Kieres, the head of the institute and a non-Jew, has himself come under attack as being a stooge of the Jews for his on-going investigation of the slaughter at Jedwabne and his role in the prosecution of a Pole employed by the Germans at the death camp in Chelmno.
It should be noted that the civil response to racism has become more widely heard and resistance against xenophobia is growing, especially among youth and the intelligentsia. The Never Again Association’s magazine of the same name (Nigdy Wiecej) monitors manifestations of racism and neo-fascism. The association also runs educational campaigns using music and sports in communicating an anti-racist message to the young. The newly formed Open Republic Association against Antisemitism and Xenophobia is composed of prominent intellectuals who, among other actions, protested against the antisemitic statements of Witold Tomczak (see above). In several cities local groups organized campaigns to remove antisemitic graffiti. On 9 November 2000, the anniversary of Kristallnacht, events were held across Poland commemorating the victims of racism and antisemitism. This initiative was coordinated by UNITED for Intercultural Action, an Amsterdam-based European anti-racist network together with its Polish partner groups.
A quest for a more inclusive understanding of “Polishness” illustrated, among others, by the case of Emmanuel Olisadebe, the first ever black player on the national football team, is underway. This tendency, reinforced by the new wave of migration, can be viewed as a restoration of an earlier, centuries’ long tradition of a multi-ethnic Poland.
Finally, despite the continuing existence of the strongly xenophobic Radio Maryja, and the antisemitic threads that appeared from time to time in speeches of Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the primate of the Polish Roman Catholic Church, there has been an important evolution in tattitude of the Catholic Church, exemplified by numerous statements and writings of figures such as Archbishop Jozef Zycinski and Father Michal Czajkowski, recently appointed co-chairman of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews. These voices received moral support from the March 2000 visit of the Pope to Israel and the official apology of the Vatican for the persecution of the Jewish people.