Skip to comments.The Skinhead International: Poland (good backgrounder, bit dated but still an issue)
Posted on 02/27/2006 8:08:46 PM PST by jb6
click here to read article
A bit dated but a good backgrounder on Nazies in Poland.
Poland is a parliamentary democracy. Since 1993 the country has been ruled by a coalition government formed by the post-communist Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (SLD, Democratic Left Alliance) and the Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (PSL, Polish Peasants' Party), a successor to the Peasant Party of the communist era. The government enjoys an almost two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament. In November 1995 Aleksander Kwaniewski, the chairman of the SLD, succeeded Lech Walesa as Poland's second democratically elected president since the collapse of communism.
The Polish economic recovery, which began in 1992, is perhaps the longest and most durable in East-Central Europe. In 1996, industrial production rose by 7.9 per cent, while the rise in gross domestic product growth was just short of 5 per cent. Inflation was reduced to 19.1 per cent and unemployment from 15.1 per cent to 14 per cent.
On the eve of the Second World War, Poland's Jewish community numbered 3.5 million, which represented 20 per cent of world Jewry. Since the Holocaust and several waves of emigration during the communist period, only a tiny remnant of this ancient community remains in the country.
Until the end of the eighteenth century the situation of the Jewish community in the Polish commonwealth was, on balance, better than in most European countries. When Poland was partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary in 1795, inter-communal relations began to deteriorate as the foreign powers implemented the principle divide et impera.
Modern Polish nationalism emerged in western Poland in the late nineteenth century in the form of the Endecja (National Democracy) movement. The Endecja promoted the identification of Polishness with Catholicism, using anti-Germanism to construe the "external" enemy and antisemitism to define the "internal" enemy.
During the period of the Second Republic (1918-39) Jews encountered increasing hostility from wide sections of the population. The late 1930s witnessed a wave of antisemitism orchestrated by the extra-parliamentary nationalist opposition and supported by a large section of the Catholic church.
Following the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939, the Nazis proceeded to murder the entire Jewish population. During this period Jews felt that the majority of ethnic Poles were indifferent to their fate. Although some Poles did help Jews to survive the Holocaust, most remained passive in the face of Nazi terror. Poland was the only country in Europe where the death penalty was imposed for assisting a person of Jewish origin.
Post-war hopes of an improved Polish-Jewish relationship were thwarted first by grassroots antisemitism, which reached its apo-gee in the Kielce pogrom of 1946, and then by communist-inspired antisemitism, which culminated in the "anti-Zionist" campaign of 1968. A similar strategy was used by the Communist Party against the political opposition in the 1970s and 1980s, when the leaders of Solidarity were portrayed as a non-Polish element.
Throughout the 1980s the Solidarity opposition began a re-evaluation of Polish hi-story, especially of relations with Poland's ethnic minorities. Its political élite frequently condemned antisemitism, xenophobia and ultra-nationalism.
Antisemitic slogans did not disappear in Poland with the collapse of communism, and resurfaced during the presidential campaign in late 1990. Since 1991, Lech Walesa and the government of Aleksander Kwasniewski have spoken out against antisemitism, and the use of antisemitic rhetoric has decreased in political circles.
Aggressive xenophobic and antisemitic attitudes are confined to a few marginal political parties and groups such as the skinheads, whose strongholds are in Gdansk, Gdynia, Lublin and Wroclaw. Antisemitism is one component of an ultra-nationalist discourse that condemns everything that is "foreign".
In recent years, surveys have shown that the main victims of verbal abuse have been Roma. The number of reported physical assaults on Roma has been declining since the early 1990s.
Cases of ethnic tension have been reported in south-west Poland, where the German ethnic minority is mainly concentrated, and in south-east Poland, where there is a significant Ukrainian minority.
In Poland only fifteen signatures are necessary to register a political party. Thus there are over 300 registered political parties, which are constantly changing their names and alliances. The far-right groupings that resort to racist, xenophobic and antisemitic rhetoric as their principal message are tiny and have little political support among the population. However, even mainstream political parties tolerate such rhetoric from their activists.
The Polska Wspolnota Narodowa-Polskie Stronnictwo Narodowe (PWN-PSN, Polish National Fellowship-Polish National Party) is led by Boleslaw Tejkowski, a former member of the Communist Party who is widely rumoured to be of Jewish origin. It publishes the paper Mysl narodowa polska (Polish National Thought) and claims a membership of 11,000. The PWN-PSN maintains links with Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (see Russia). In the 1993 general elections it received only 0.1 per cent of the ballot. Its active members are mostly young skinheads (see MANIFESTATIONS).
The Przymierze Samoobrona (PS, Self-Defence Alliance), founded in 1992 by the former communist Andrzej Lepper, recruits supporters from within the peasant community. PS activists often ascribe to Jews responsibility for the economic hardships that have accompanied the reform process. In the first round of the 1995 presidential elections Lepper won 1.3 per cent of the votes.
The Polski Front Narodowy (PFN, Polish National Front) is led by Janusz Bryczkowski and claims 700 members. Founded in 1994, this neo-Nazi group has had little political success. Bryczkowski was unable to obtain the 100,000 signatures required for his official candidacy in the 1995 presidential election. In 1996 he was arrested on account of illegal operations in his extensive trade with Russia.
Other marginal parties that use antisemitic rhetoric are the Polskie Stronnictwo Narodowe "Ojczyzna" (Polish National Fellowship "Fatherland"), the Stronnictwo Narodowe "Szczerbiec" (SNSz, National Party "Szczerbiec"), the Polskie Odrodzenie Narodowe (PON, Polish National Renewal) and the Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski (NOP, National Rebirth of Poland).
Since approximately the end of the 1980s, skinheads have constituted an important section of the membership of far-right Polish parties such as the PWN-PSN and the NOP. The neo-Nazi skinhead scene remains strong and is concentrated in small towns. There are an estimated 10,000-20,000 neo-Nazi skinheads in Poland.
The Ruch Odbudowy Polski (ROP, Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland) bases its policies on anti-communism and the defence of Poland against the domination of western capital. One of its leaders, Zygmunt Wrzodak, is known for his antisemitic views. Press statements put out by the Ursus tractor factory, where he is chairman of Solidarnosc (the trade union Solidarity), frequently claim the Polish government consists of "Jewish communists" (see MANIFESTATIONS).
The centre-right coalition Akcja Wyborcza Solidarnosci (AWS, Solidarity Electoral Action) was founded in 1996. Its "Christian democratic" policy is vague and covers the spectrum from liberal conservatives to populist anti-liberals. While its leader, Marian Krzaklewski, is not known for antisemitic utterances, antisemitic slogans have appeared at some AWS demonstrations.
In January, the Polish foreign minister, Dariusz Rosati, wrote to the World Jewish Congress acknowledging that the 1946 Kielce pogrom was "an act of Polish antisemitism". Edward Moskal, president of the Chicago-based Polish American Congress, described the letter as "unfortunate and unnecessary" and accused the Polish government of indulging the Jews. Moskal's letter led the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to terminate its joint sponsorship of the National Polish American and Jewish American Council in May (see United States of America). Henryk Jankowski, a Catholic priest from Gdansk known for his antisemitic views, said that Rosati had no right to apologize on behalf of all Poles and that "apologizing to the Jews is an insult to the Polish nation". These criticisms did not in any way undermine the Polish government's condemnation of the Kielce pogrom (see COUNTERING ANTISEMITISM).
While the law regulating the restitution of Jewish communal property has not given rise to public expressions of antisemitism, as could have been expected and was feared, it has become the source of considerable Polish-Jewish tension. The law, which should be adopted by parliament in 1997, does not cover the return of private property. Although the govern-mental line has been that claimants of private property will be treated equally, regardless of nationality, there is concern in the government that if pressure for special legislation relating to Jewish private property is brought to bear, it will bring antisemitism to the surface.
On 6 April members of the PWN-PSN held a demonstration outside the main entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp, at which banners were raised against NATO, the European Union (EU) and Jews. The demonstration was allegedly intended to pay homage to Poles and other nationals who had been murdered in Auschwitz and to serve as a warning against the revival of "German and Jewish Nazism". It was later discovered that Boleslaw Tejkowski had threatened the local authorities that he would disrupt the March of the Living, scheduled for later that month (see COUNTERING ANTISEMITISM), if the PWN-PSN was not authorized to hold its demonstration. The governor of the Bialsko-Biala district, Marek Trombski, who had authorized the demonstration, offered his resignation on 10 April.
On 3 May, Poland's national holiday, Tejkowski organized a PWN-PSN rally in Cracow and called for Polish land not to be sold to foreigners, particularly Jews and Germans. This sparked off a counter-demonstration of anti-fascist youth groups under the slogans "Cracow-city without racial prejudice" and "Fascism is the socialism of idiots".
In June, Zygmunt Wrzodak (see MAINSTREAM POLITICS) used antisemitic invective to criticize the intellectual opposition of the 1970s, some of whom were of Jewish background and had collaborated closely with the government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki during the "shock therapy" reforms of 1990-1. Wrzodak called the intellectuals "frustrated atheists" who had used the workers' protests in 1976 to pursue "their own non-Polish goals", and accused them of wanting "to buy into our Polish Catholic worker circles in order to get power . . . together with their ideological brethren, the communists".
In September, at a Germany vs. Poland football match in the southern Polish town of Zabrze, German hooligans held up banners with antisemitic and anti-Polish slogans. German police used the video recordings of the incident to investigate those responsible (see Germany).
In November, during the celebrations of Polish Independence Day in Cracow, some 200 skinheads took an oath to fight "German, Jewish and American occupants, the communist and Solidarity government and anti-Polish anarchism".
There were instances of desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Warsaw in July and in the southern Polish city of Oswiecim, where the death camp Auschwitz is situated, in November. A seventeen-year-old skinhead was detained following the desecration in Oswiecim.
In general the Polish media are highly critical of manifestations of antisemitism. Some mainstream media, however, often publish anti-semitic material. These include the Catholic daily Slowo (print-run 30,000) and the right-wing Gazeta Polska (100,000).
Racist publications can be bought relatively easily in kiosks or on the streets of regions bordering Germany. Titles include Aryjska Krew (Aryan Blood), Aryjczyk (The Aryan) and Bialy Grom (White Thunderbolt). According to Polish intelligence sources, the organizations that produce and distribute these materials receive financial aid and propaganda materials from Germany.
Recent surveys indicate that negative stereotypes of Jews remain relatively strong in Poland. When asked to list "nations" with harmful attitudes towards them, Poles usually mentioned Russians, Roma and Germans. However, when given a list of "bad nations" that included Jews, there was a big increase in antisemitic responses. More elaborate analyses contradict the stereotype of the "Polish anti-semite" that prevails in other countries. They also reveal the need to distinguish between different levels of Polish antisemitism.
The first in-depth study of Polish antisemitism published in 1996 and based on polls conducted in May 1992 distinguishes two kinds of antisemitism-traditional and religious ("the Jews killed Jesus"), and a more modern brand of hate ("Jews' power is great and hidden, and they are conspiring to control politics and the economy"). The study shows that younger, better-educated people are more likely to be sympathetic to Jews.
Traditional religious antisemitism is found primarily among poorly educated, older Catholics living in small towns. Modern anti-semitism is present in all social groups irrespective of education or age. The study suggests that the number of Polish antisemites is fairly stable, but that there is also a gradual increase in the number of people "favourably disposed" towards Jews.
According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Public Opinion Research in February 1996, 49 per cent of the respondents stated that the largest group of victims of the Auschwitz death camp were Jews, while 21 per cent said that they were mainly Polish. The survey also showed that 45 per cent regarded Auschwitz as primarily symbolic of Polish martyrdom, while 28 per cent associated it with martyrdom of the Jews and 4 per cent with martyrdom of both communities. Compared with a similar survey conducted by the AJC in 1995, this survey shows an increase in the perception of the Jewish identity of Auschwitz (8 per cent in January 1995, 18 per cent in February 1995, 27 per cent in February 1996). The dominance of the perception of Auschwitz as the site of the martyrdom of the Polish nation, with the prevalence of the belief in the Jewish majority of the Auschwitz victims, indicates that many Poles reject the logic of the Nazi perpetrators ("the Jews were killed because they were Jewish") and consider the victims Polish citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliation.
Article 81 of the Polish constitution forbids "the spreading of hatred or contempt, encouraging strife and humiliating a person for national, racial or religious reasons". Article 270 of the Penal Code states that anyone "publicly spreading and praising fascist ideology can face a prison sentence of between six months and five years".
Despite the legal ban on fascist political parties, groups can easily circumvent it by excluding antisemitic slogans from the statutes they present to courts when registering themselves. The current law does not precisely define criteria for banning a party.
Prosecutors remain reluctant to deal with cases of racial hatred or contempt, and effective punishment is not easy to come by. The fact that cases sometimes take five years to reach court reflects the general situation of a judiciary that is overloaded by the legal disputes that accompany the reform process.
Following the demonstrations held by the PWN-PSN in the grounds of the Auschwitz camp in April (see MANIFESTATIONS), the government announced its intention to prepare a bill amending the existing provisions concerning assemblies and demonstrations at places of martyrdom.
The Polish government has been anxious to shed the country's antisemitic image and work towards Polish-Jewish reconciliation. President Kwasniewski has shown a more sensitive approach to Polish-Jewish relations than did Lech Walesa, and has intervened personally on several occasions.
On 7 January 1997, in Warsaw University's Golden Hall, the Polish Council of Christians and Jews presented its Figure of Reconciliation Award to Rabbi A. James Rudin, the AJC's director of interreligious affairs, for fostering improved relations between Catholics and Jews.
In April, two high-ranking Polish officials attended the March of the Living, which is held bi-annually to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.
In July, Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz played a prominent role during the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Kielce pogrom. The ceremony, which was held at 7 Planty Street, where the pogrom began, was attended by the prime minister, Nobel Prize-winner Elie Wiesel, the secretary general of the Polish Episcopate, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronik, and the chairman of the US Kielce emigré community. The town's mayor, Bogslaw Ciesielski, said, "Let us build a bridge over the graves", and Cimoszewicz expressed his regret for all the wrongs that the Poles did to the Jews. This event, together with Rosati's letter to the World Jewish Congress (see MAINSTREAM POLITICS), marked Poland's first official apology for the pogrom.
In June, following the controversy about the construction of a shopping mall in the vicinity of the Auschwitz main camp, the government presented to parliament a comprehensive development programme for the region known as the "Auschwitz memorial conservation scheme". The first stage of the programme envisages the reconstruction of thoroughfares and a protection zone around the site of the former Nazi camp, as well as improvement of the transport system. The second phase will focus on restoring the old town of Oswiecim and constructing an international conference and educational centre. The cost of the entire scheme, to be concluded in the year 2007, is estimated at $120 million. The plan was also presented by the museum to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC) and to American Jewish groups in July, who in turn prepared a detailed response.
Professor Krzysztof Sliwinski, who was nominated as Poland's roving ambassador to the Jewish diaspora in August 1995, has continued his efforts to improve relations between Poland and world Jewry. Sliwinski was an active member of the dissident movement during the communist era and defended students who were ostracized as Jews during the 1968 antisemitic campaign. His role is to foster a constructive dialogue between Poles and Jews that would replace the traditional atmosphere of mutual accusation and simplistic stereotypes.
There have also been many grassroots initiatives against antisemitism. In November, anti-fascist organizations mobilized marches "against racism, antisemitism and intolerance" in Warsaw, Katowice and Lublin. During the rally in Warsaw, Jacek Kuron of Unia Wolnosci (UW, Freedom Union) and Cezary Miezejewski of the Polska Partia Socjalistyczna (PPS, Polish Socialist Party), supported calls for banning Nazi parties such as the PWN-PSN and the PON (see parties, organizations, movements).
Throughout the year many conferences and lectures on ethnic minorities, in particular Polish Jewish history, took place in Polish universities. There is particular stress on the education of the younger generation. Several summer camps were held around Polish Jewish themes and the AJC organized an exchange programme that brings American professors of Jewish studies to teach at Catholic seminaries and Polish academics to teach at Jewish colleges in the USA. In Warsaw a number of non-Jewish parents have decided to send their children to the Jewish elementary school set up by the Lauder-Morasha Foundation. Opinion polls indicate that all these initiatives are starting to bear fruit (see OPINION POLLS).
Antisemitism plays a diminished role in Polish political and social life, yet it can surface as a significant factor, as it did in a long drawn-out debate over the re-privatization law and the restitution of, or compensation for, expro-priated property. The Polish authorities have sought to encourage a more objective reassessment of Polish Jewish history. These efforts have been accompanied by a continuing and spontaneous interest in Jewish history and culture at the grassroots level, especially among the younger generation.
The electoral failure of the political groupings that make antisemitism the core of their programme demonstrates that antisemitism is not the main expression of Polish nationalism. Antisemitic prejudice is still present at grassroots level, especially among the less educated strata of the population. However, there is some indication, from opinion polls and the range of activity designed to counter negative attitudes towards Jews, that antisemitism has become less pervasive in Polish society.
© JPR 1997
How stupid can some people be? Sick b@st@rds. Maybe they should put the Polish and German Skinheads on the same island and let them kill each other. The world would be a better place.
More anti-Polish BS.
Sex Bomba is not a skinhead group, this is normal rock band.
This is an old article, out-of-date for a long time! Please, come to Gdansk and show me any Nazi-Skinhead!
Wat about the 30 or so that recently beat up Russian teens and caused an international incident?
And what do we have there... A tendentional article. But let's go through this text - it describes only few minor incidents. To be condemned, no doubt! But this is nothing compared to incidents in e.g. USA, Germany or Russia. BTW - LPR is getting more and more civilized and Samoobrona (Self-defence)is sometimes more liberal than PO (Polish most liberal party in parliament).
This incident was caused by street hooligans, not skinheads. Besides it became an international incident by strange panic reaction of president Putin. Maybe Poles should react in same way everytime Polish citizen gets beat up in Russia?
It was skinheads, eye witnesses say it was skinheads, and the media covered it up because they didn't want anyone to realize skinheads about in Poland.
"Eyewitnesses say that the skinheads [the attackers] left the site of the fight on a microbus," Makarenko said. "I don't know many hooligans who are traveling in microbuses."
Eye witnesses in Russia always say what Putin wants them to say. I live in Gdansk where, according to the post above, live many skinheads and I haven't seen any of them since a long time. Maybe you should focus on Russian Nazi- and Red Skinheads and on common Russian people attitiude towards Poland and Polish citizens.
This attack on Russian Teens happened in Poland!
So what? Russians in Poland are also afraid of president Putin. And Russian embassy is considered a territory of Russia. Besides, no one in Poland said that they were skinheads. This info appears in Russian press.
Eye witnesses told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty they were skinheads.
You can be in denial about that all you like, but I tend to beleive a respected publication like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The Polish government obviously has an interest in keeping the details of this out of the press. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a non-Polish publication and as such reported the facts.
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