Polish neo-Nazis thrive as authorities fail to act, Jewish community leader says

Thousands of people marching at Poland´s annual Independency Day march in Warsaw. (Lorena de la Cuesta/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Thousands of people marching at Poland´s annual Independency Day march in Warsaw. (Lorena de la Cuesta/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(JTA) – Following a television report about neo-Nazis in Poland, the leader of the country’s federation of Jewish communities said that extremists are thriving due to inaction by the government.

A TVN report over the weekend featured young men filmed displaying swastikas and speaking positively about Adolf Hitler. The report showed about 10 individuals from the Pride and Modernity group who celebrated Hitler’s birthday on April 20 at a private residence with a cake featuring a swastika glaze. They also burned a swastika made of wood.

Leslaw Piszewski, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, called out Polish authorities on Facebook in responding to the documentary.

“What else has to happen for us to look open our eyes, the authorities say that fascism and nazism are not tolerated in Poland,” he wrote. “I want to believe in these words, but let authorities do their job.”

Attorney General Zbigniew Ziobro vowed to act tough on the group and individuals pictured, who broke the law by displaying Nazi symbols.

“After Nazi Germany attacked, millions of people were murdered in occupied Poland, including three million Poles,” Ziobro wrote.

It is estimated that the Germans killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians during World War II, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In addition, the Germans murdered at least 3 million Jewish citizens of Poland.

In Poland, the term “Poles” is often used in the media and by officials to designate non-Jewish Polish citizens, whereas Jewish ones are referred to as “Jews.”

If someone “honours Adolf Hitler, who is one of the greatest criminals in history, he deserves to be treated to the full extent of the law,” Ziobro told the PAP news agency. “In such situations, the prosecutor’s office will always be firm.”

World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer in a statement welcomed the Polish government’s “swift condemnation of fascist activities.” But, he added, “Anti-Semitism and xenophobia are rising at an alarming rate in Poland, rearing their ugly heads beyond the fringes of society and into the mainstream.

“Sadly,” he added, “this was hardly an isolated incident and must not be treated as such.”

In November, during a nationalist rally on Poland’s Independence Day in Warsaw, some participants carried anti-Muslim banners and chanted anti-Semitic slogans. A total of 60,000 people attended.

Piszewski’s Union of Jewish Communities in Poland has appealed to Polish politicians for help against what his organization has called a rise in far-right activities under the right-wing Law and Justice party. Piszewski said this is creating a security threat for members of the community.

But other Jewish community organizations, including the TSKZ cultural group, are disputing the assertion. They have accused Piszewski of exaggerating the problem in Poland as part of a “political battle” with the government, as TSKZ President Artur Hoffman termed it last year.

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