The demonstration took place last Thursday, on Polish Independence Day, in the city of Kalisz, in central Poland. The participants also burned a copy of a medieval document offering protection and rights to Jews in Polish lands.
Poland’s Jewish community said in a statement Monday that Polish Jews “have not experienced such contempt and hatred expressed in public for years.”
“Poland is our homeland. We are both Jewish and Polish. However, we wonder why our right to consider Poland our home is being questioned more and more often and more openly ”. said the Union of Jewish Religious Communities.
Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski announced the arrests on Twitter, saying that “there is no consent to anti-Semitism and hatred on the grounds of nationality, religion or ethnicity.”
“In the face of the organizers of the shameful event in Kalisz, the Polish state must show its cruelty and determination,” said Kaminski.
Polish authorities have faced questions about why the arrests took so long, given that the incident was widely reported in Poland.
One of those arrested is Wojciech Olszanski, a far-right activist also known as Aleksander Jablonowski, who said when burning the copy of the Statute of Kalisz, the 13th century document that establishes Jewish rights: “We are abolishing Jewish rights in this land. ! “and” Death to the enemies of Poland! “
The crowd responded with chants of “Death! Death! Death!”
Another is Piotr Rybak, who was sentenced to prison for burning the effigy of a Jew. In 2019, he went to the former Auschwitz death camp on the anniversary of his liberation and said: “It is time to fight the Jews and liberate Poland from them!”
The public expression of hatred came on a public holiday celebrating Poland’s statehood, a day that in recent years has been overshadowed by far-right groups.
The statement by the Jewish community noted that Polish state and local governments have been “relinquishing their role as primary organizers of Independence Day celebrations, thus allowing the initiative to be taken up by far-right organizations that use public assemblies to preach anti-Semitic, xenophobic and homophobic words. “
“Unfortunately, some of these organizations benefit from public funding,” he said.
Polish President Andrzej Duda strongly condemned the anti-Semitic incident on Sunday, while people in the city of Kalisz held a demonstration on Sunday under the slogan “Kalisz: free from fascism.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the “unequivocal condemnation” of the Polish authorities and said that the Jewish people “expect the Polish government to act without concessions against those who participated in this shocking show of hatred.”
Poland was for centuries one of the most welcoming European lands for Jews, and the kings offered them protection after they fled persecution in German lands.
Poland’s Jewish community grew to be the largest in Europe in the 20th century, with some 3.3 million Jews on the eve of World War II. Most were killed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Today, the community is very small, they number in the thousands.