level of antisemitic activity in Poland remained stable in 2004. The
antisemitic League of Polish Families more than doubled their share of the vote
in the June 2004 European Parliamentary election. In
February 2004, Jan Maria Jackowski, a leader of the party, was elected chairman
of Warsaw city council. In one of his books he warned against Poland becoming a “land reserve” for potential Jewish settlement in Poland. In 2004 Radio Maryja ran
a campaign in defense of Father Henryk Jankowski who has been accused of
pedophilia. Jankowski publicly attributed the accusations to a “Judeo-communist
the jewish community
are some 5,000–10,000 Jews in Poland out of a total population of close to 40
million. The majority 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, such as those
of Lublin and Bialystok, existed.
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 a roof 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. 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
institutions are the Jewish Historical Institute, with its revamped museum, the
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.
Funds are being raised to support government plans to erect a hi-tech interactive Museum of the History of Polish Jews, opposite the Ghetto Monument in Warsaw.
August 2004, the Polish government announced it would build a memorial museum
on the territory of the former death camp in Treblinka, in cooperation with Yad
Vashem. Scheduled for opening in 2006, it will be followed by museums in
Chelmno and Solibor.
29 August 2004 the 60th anniversary of the last transport from the Lodz ghetto was commemorated at the Jewish cemetery. Close to 45,000 Jews and 5,000 Roma
were brought to the Lodz ghetto from occupied countries. Over 200,000 Jews from
Lodz were killed by the Nazis.
restoration of communal property to the Jewish communities and to the
Foundation for the Preservation of the Jewish Heritage in Poland continues (see ASW
and extra-parliamentary groups
political climate in the country continued to decline in 2004. Widespread
disillusionment with the Social Democratic government (which has been in power
since 2001) was exploited by extreme right and nationalistic parties. The League
of Polish Families (Liga Polskich Rodzin – LPR), for example,
whose members have frequently expressed antisemitic sentiments, more than
doubled their share of the vote in the June 2004 European Parliament election,
from 7 per cent in the 2001 national election, to 15 per cent.
LPR, which is associated with the antisemitic radio station Radio Maryja (see
below), won nine seats in the European Parliament. Expressing its wish to
cooperate with moderate conservative parties, it joined the UK Independence
Party (UKIP), among others, in the Democracy and Independence bloc (see ASW 2003/4).
Among newly elected LPR MEPs is Wojciech Wierzejski, until recently a leader of
the resurrected All-Polish Youth (Mlodziez Wszechpolska – MW).
The MW continues the tradition of the violent antisemitic youth organization of
the same name which was active in the 1920s and 1930s. Today it is composed
largely of skinheads and tends to use violence against those perceived as opponents,
notably gay and feminist groups. On 8 May 2004, for example, football hooligans and activists of the MW and LPR violently attacked a peaceful gay rights
march in Krakow.
radical antisemite Jedrzej Giertych, who became prominent in the interwar
period, has had a profound influence on the ideology of the LPR and MW, a fact
officially acknowledged by party leaders on numerous occasions. The LPR’s
presidential candidate Professor Maciej Giertych is Jedrzej Giertych's son,
while the main spokesman of the LPR, Roman Giertych, is his grandson.
to the influential center-right daily Rzeczpospolita, the LPR is likely
to enter a new governing coalition with conservative and liberal parties after
the parliamentary election scheduled for 2005. It has already formed an
alliance with the conservative Law and Justice party (Prawo i
Sprawiedliwosc – PiS) in the Warsaw city council. The
conservative mayor, Lech Kaczynski, accepted the LPR’s demand to build a
monument to Roman Dmowski in the city center. Dmowski was the ideologue of the
nationalist antisemitic movement Endecja in the 1920s and 1930s. In February
2004, Jan Maria Jackowski, a leader of the LPR, was elected chairman of the
city council. In one of his books he warned against Poland becoming a “land
reserve” for “one of the sides in the Middle East conflict,” alluding to
potential Jewish settlement in Poland.
other dynamic antisemitic party, National Rebirth of Poland (Narodowe
Odrodzenie Polski – NOP), is active at the street level, among
skinheads and football hooligans. It organizes annual training for neo-fascist
groups from various countries and is closely linked to the Italian neo-fascist
Forza Nuova. The party openly supports Holocaust denial and its publication Szczerbiec
(distributed by the state-owned company Ruch) includes a regular column written
by British Holocaust denier David Irving. Despite numerous calls in the media
and by the Never Again Association to ban the NOP (on the basis of Article 13
of the country's Constitution) and to stop distribution of Szczerbiec at
state-owned newspaper kiosks, the NOP continues its activities unhindered. The
NOP has increasingly exploited the Middle East conflict in its propaganda,
expressing support for Islamic terrorist groups. The NOP’s notorious antisemitism,
however, did not prevent Jerzy Kropiwnicki, elected mayor of Lodz in 2002, from
forming a coalition with this party. Kropiwnicki has occasionally expressed his
readiness to further relations with the Jewish Diaspora, but he has failed to
change the image of the city as a stronghold of organized antisemitic activity.
Lepper, leader of the populist Self-Defense (Samoobrona) enjoys some 10
per cent of support among the Polish population. He has repeatedly made
enthusiastic references to Göbbel’s “propaganda skills” and
Hitler’s “economic policy.” According to Poland’s main daily, the liberal Gazeta
Wyborcza, Lepper's party is financed by Jan Kobylanski, a Uruguay-based
millionaire who allegedly collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.
Kobylanski is also closely linked to Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, operator of Radio
Maryja, which continued to disseminate thinly veiled antisemitic
propaganda, an activity tolerated by the Catholic Church. In 2004 Radio Maryja
ran a campaign in defense of Father Henryk Jankowski, a notorious antisemite
who has been accused of pedophilia. Jankowski himself publicly attributed the
accusations to a “Judeo-communist plot.” In November, the chancellor of the
Gdansk Metropolitan Curia removed Jankowski from his post as parish priest.
level of antisemitic activity in Poland remained fairly stable. A few incidents
were recorded, including the daubing of swastikas as well as a Star of David on
the walls of the Tempel synagogue in the Kazimierz Jewish quarter in June. In
October Angora, a tabloid-style weekly news digest, plastered anti-Jewish posters on its offices in central Lodz.. Despite protests from the Israeli embassy in Poland, the posters were removed only after a month.
visitors to Auschwitz suffered abuse on a few occasions. In August French
tourists shouted antisemitic and anti-Israel insults at a group of Israeli
students, while in October three young Poles shouted “Zhid, Zhid” at a
government-owned company Ruch sells hard-core antisemitic literature of Leszek
Bubel, a veteran antisemitic publisher who has produced, among others, pocket
editions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The UN Committee for
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) condemned the wide circulation
of racist propaganda in its March 2003 report on Poland.
responses to racism and antisemitism
activity of non-governmental organizations has been an important antidote to
antisemitism in Poland. For instance, the Never Again Association has run a
successful campaign against antisemitism and racism in football stadiums (in
the framework of Football against Racism in Europe) as well as on the Internet
(in the framework of the International Network against Cyber Hate). As part of
this campaign, 250,000 participants attended the now annual Przystanek
Woodstock rock festival in July 2004, which included friendly matches between
Polish football teams (see ASW 2003/4).
March 2004 the Council of Ministers approved a National Action Program against
Racism. It is hoped the program will strengthen the implementation of existing
legal provisions against hate speech and organized racist activity.