Anti Fascism

Poland: The Challenge of Extremism

Depressing developments in an European Union member state.

Read the ADL’s report: “Poland: Democracy and the Challenge of Extremism”.

Here is the executive summary:

Poland has emerged from the repressive years of communist rule as a pluralist democracy. Its accession to membership of the European Union in 2004 confirmed that a robust democratic system is in place, which includes important legislative instruments to protect minorities from hate speech and hate crimes perpetrated by extremist groups.

The consolidation of democracy in Poland has been accompanied by the recognition of many leading Poles that their country needs to honestly confront its long and painful history of anti-Semitism. The recent commemoration of the 1946 Kielce pogrom is another sign of Poland’s commitment to this process.

However, politics in Poland remains vulnerable to nationalist extremism, intolerance and anti-Semitism. The most worrying indication of this trend so far has been the formation, in May 2006, of a coalition government comprised of the Law and Justice Party in partnership with the extreme right-wing League of Polish Families (LPF) and the populist Self-Defense parties. Ministerial posts were awarded to Roman Giertych, leader of the LPF, and Andrzej Lepper, leader of Self-Defense. Lepper has expressed admiration for Hitler’s policies and is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from MAUP, a private Ukrainian university responsible for publishing the majority of the anti-Semitic newspapers and journals available in Ukraine.

The most disturbing outcome of the coalition’s formation has been the appointment of Roman Giertych as Minister of Education. The political orientation represented by Giertych, whose Ministry’s responsibilities include tolerance education and Holocaust education, has traditionally been anti-Semitic and xenophobic. The LPF’s agenda has been resolutely hostile towards homosexuals and foreigners and many of its leading figures have made anti-Semitic remarks. Its youth wing, the All-Polish Youth, is named after a pre-World War II Polish nationalist movement which successfully campaigned for the introduction of a “Jews bench” in Polish universities to separate Jewish and non-Jewish students.

Giertych has reacted to Israel’s decision to freeze contacts with his Ministry by making overtures to the Jewish community. In press interviews, he has spoken of the need to combat anti-Semitism. However, his party has made no attempts to confront the anti-Semitism in its ranks.

A key pillar of support for the coalition government has been the anti-Semitic Catholic radio station, Radio Maryja. Associated with a religious order which rejects the authority of the Vatican, Radio Maryja commands an audience of up to 3 million, and also runs a TV station and a daily newspaper. Once closely associated with the LPF, Radio Maryja has shifted its support to the Law and Justice Party. Despite the attempts of some prominent church leaders to curb hate speech on the station’s broadcasts, the Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of President Lech Kaczynski and a regular guest on Radio Maryja, has referred to its critics as “enemies of freedom”.

Anti-Semitic content broadcast on Radio Maryja includes ugly stereotyping, conspiracy theories, claims that Jews were responsible for communist-era repression and accusations that Jews are using the Holocaust to leverage compensation payments from Poland. In March 2006, the commentator Stanislaw Michalkiewicz declared on air: “Jews have humiliated Poland internationally by demanding money…Kikes sneak up behind us to try to oblige our government to pay them money on the pretext of these demands”. Such statements are very much in keeping with the views of Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, the power behind the station, who has stated on-air that Judaism is a “trade, not a religion.”

The private Ukrainian university, MAUP – which awarded a degree to Polish minister, Andrzej Lepper – is an interesting place.

According to Wikipedia:

In September 2005 [former KKK Grand Wizard, David] Duke received a Ph.D. title in History from the Ukrainian Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP). His doctoral thesis was titled “Zionism as a Form of Ethnic Supremacism”…Allegedly Duke has been allowed to teach an international relations and a history course at MAUP.