WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – Far-right marchers shouted “Jews out” and other racist slogans at Independence Day events, drawing condemnation from Jewish groups.
At the March of Independence in Warsaw Saturday, participants held signs that read “Seig Heil,” “Remove Jewry from power,” and “White Europe, Europe must be white.” Others wore masks, waved red and white Polish flags and burned flares.
Police estimated that 60,000 people participated in the Nov. 11 march marking 99 years of Polish independence, which is organized annually by nationalist groups. A small minority of the marchers came from outside of Poland.
Poland’s Interior Minister expressed pride in the event.
“It was a beautiful sight,” Mariusz Błaszczak, said. “We are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday.”
Culture Minister Piotr Gliński condemned the slogans and banners that mentioned race without referring to anti-Semitism.
“We do not support such slogans,” he said, referencing what he termed, “Use of ethnic and racist terminology to describe the concept of the Polish nation.”
In response to the march, the American Jewish Committee in a statement Monday called on the Polish government to take action against “rising hatred inspired by the country’s far right.”
Agnieszka Markiewicz, the director of AJC’s Warsaw-based Central Europe office, said that while the holiday was celebrated appropriately by some, it was “seriously marred by hateful, far-right throngs.” She said that “xenophobic nationalism in Poland is becoming more dangerous” and warned against complacency.
“The apparent tolerance shown for these purveyors of hate – and, let’s be clear, that’s exactly what they are – by some Polish government officials is particularly troubling,” said Markiewicz, referring to Błaszczak’s comments. “History has painfully taught us that silence or inaction in such matters can come with a high price.”
Jonny Daniels, the founder of From the Depths, a Holocaust commemoration group in Poland, also called on the government to act. He asked police to identify and prosecute marchers whom his group documented using racist language. If charged and convicted of acts of discrimination or incitement to hatred, they could face up to three years in prison.
“Poland cannot allow this to happen,” Daniels told JTA Monday.”
At the same time, Daniels said that only a small minority of the marchers used racist language and “hijacked the event.”
Racist rhetoric was documented also at Nov. 11 events outside the capital.
In the western city of Wroclaw, an Independence Day march of approximately 2,000 participants was led by Piotr Rybak, who was convicted this year for burning an effigy of a Jew two years ago at a demonstration against immigration.
Jacek Międlar, a former priest who also led the Wroclaw march, called on the crowd to take extreme action against what he described as forces of evil – including Jews – that he said threatened the state.
“Be ruthless, be radical in the fight against evil, lies, injustice, lawlessness, the destruction of the Polish judiciary, and Talmudism,” Międlar said. Only then, “this war will be won, and no Jewish Marxist horde will take away our flag or the cross of Christ.”
He also said that in Polish synagogues, “Jews are drunk with Talmudic hatred.”