Tag Archives: Poland

Recalling the pogrom against Iraqi Jews on the evening of mass terror attack in Tel Aviv

This Wednesday evening, four people have died following a mass terrorist shooting in the centre of Tel Aviv.

Up to six others have been injured in the attack, which took place at a popular open-air food market.

A police commander said two Palestinian gunmen from the West Bank were behind the “harsh terror attack”, and both were “neutralised” at the scene.

Local reports suggest one of the gunmen had been disguised as an ultra-Orthodox Jew.

One of the alleged attackers was arrested, and a doctor has told Sky News that the other suspect is in a stable condition after being taken to hospital for treatment.

Only the bravery of security guards at the market managed to avert a bigger disaster by stopping the attackers from going inside.


This news came in as we were preparing an article recalling the 75 years since the Farhud, the two-day pogrom that befell the Jews of Baghdad, in June 1941.

When the Farhud—which means, in Arabic, “violent dispossession”—erupted, there were around 90,000 Jews still living in the Iraqi capital, the main component of a vibrant community descended from the sages who, 27 centuries earlier, had made the land once known as Babylon the intellectual and spiritual center of Judaism.

A monument in Ramat Gan, Israel, serves as a memorial for the Iraqi Jews killed during the Farhud (Arabic for ‘violent dispossession’) in June 1941.
A monument in Ramat Gan, Israel, serves as a memorial for the Iraqi Jews killed during the Farhud (Arabic for ‘violent dispossession’) in June 1941.

By the time the violent mob stood down, at the end of the festival of Shavuot, nearly 200 Jews lay dead, with hundreds more wounded, raped, and beaten. Hundreds of homes and businesses were burned to the ground.

As the smoke cleared over a scene more familiar in countries like Russia, Poland, and Germany, the Jewish community came to the realization that it had no future in Iraq. Within a decade, almost the entire community had been chased out, joining a total of 850,000 Jews from elsewhere in the Arab world summarily dispossessed from their homes and livelihoods.

AntiSemitismWatch comment: The poignancy of yet another unprovoked terrorist attack on Jews, 75 years on from the Farhud, should be clear to all. If you want to do something, pray for all those affected by tonight’s outrage, share the story of the Farhud and stay strong.

Click here to read more about the Farhud.


Special Report: Rise of far right in Europe being overlooked

Western mainstream media had been fully geared up to cover the expected victory of the far right presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer, in the recent Austrian election. The win of the Green party candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen, robbed them of the opportunity to cover what they had been predicting as the first European post-Second World War far right head of state election victory.

Norbert Hofer
Norbert Hofer

Yet, the rise of far right European parties and candidates into the established international realpolitik, rather than their traditional fringe position, is something that has been and is being fundamentally overlooked.

In France, the far-right National Front won 6.8 million votes in regional elections in 2015 – its largest ever popular endorsement.

The far-right Jobbik party who polled third in Hungaryorganises patrols by an unarmed but uniformed “Hungarian Guard” in Roma (Gypsy) neighbourhoods.

In Denmark, the government relies on the support of the nationalist Danish People’s Party and has the toughest immigration rules in Europe.

While, the leader of the nationalist Finns Party is the foreign minister of Finland, after it joined a coalition government last year.

Andrzej Duda
Andrzej Duda

Less than a year after Poland elected Andrzej Duda, a previously little-known right-wing politician as president, Warsaw’s nationalist government moved to strip a leading Jewish Holocaust scholar of a national honour for asserting simply what the previous Polish presidential incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, acknowledged. Namely, that Poland was in part responsible for Nazi war crimes against its Jewish population during World War II.

Perhaps one of most shocking situations currently exists in Croatia. During World War II, Croatia was ruled by the Ustashi, an axis-aligned regime that was every bit as bad as the Nazis. The Ustashi killed over 600,000 people, 500,000 of which were Serbs. The Ustashi-ruled Independent State of Croatia had a population of around 6.3 million, meaning the Ustashi killed around one in 10 of its own people. Eighty percent of the nation’s Jews were murdered.

Ustashi – axis-aligned regime during World War II, every bit as bad as the Nazis.

Now the Ustashi are making a comeback. It has now penetrated cabinet ministers and the mainstream media. Ognjen Kraus, the leader of Croatia’s Jewish communities, said that the government “is simply not doing anything” and that it “does not want to.”

The nation’s new right-wing coalition that came to power at the start of the year is responsible for much of this change. As part of that coalition, Zlatko Hasanbegović became Croatia’s culture minister in January. He was once a member of a small far-right, pro-Ustashi party.

Ustashi supporters in modern Croatia
Ustashi supporters in modern Croatia

Since taking office, Hasanbegović has cut funds for progressive groups and independent media and has endorsed a revisionist documentary film that denies the scale of the crimes committed by Croatia during its alliance with Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

Reporters Without Borders, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Serb and Jewish groups in the region have all condemned the new government.

The government’s tolerance of such a man as a minister in government is creating a climate of fear throughout the country.

Croatian soccer fans frequently chant Nazi-era slogans during games with only indirect criticism from the government. During one game with Israel, fans were heard to shout, “We Croats! Ustashi! Ustashi!”

Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s office in Israel and Eastern Europe, warned that Croatia is “a country where manifestations of fascism and anti-Semitism are very common, especially in the local soccer stadiums, but not easily identifiable by those ignorant of the country’s World War II and Holocaust history.”

In the UK much of the media coverage of anti-Semitic issues has focused attention to the political left following the storm that has engulfed the Labour Party. Equally, many in the western media, following mass immigration stories and terrorist outrages, have, unsurprisingly, concentrated on radical Islamist matters and any associated anti-Semitism. Yet, if world history, our history, tells us one thing, we cannot afford to ignore or overlook the rise of the far right. If the mainstream media will not do it we shall have to do it for ourselves.

Visibility must be a price worth paying as anti-Semitism continues to thrive in Europe


When AntiSemitismWatch launched its groundbreaking survey on the experience of ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in the UK last year, it had a working premise. Namely, that their visibility would mean they were likely to have a markedly different experience in regards to anti-Semitism than the wider mainstream Jewish communities.

The results significantly bore out that theory, casting a huge shadow over the reliability of the published UK anti-Semitic hate crime figures.

Of all the respondents, 77% had witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism in the previous 12 months.

Of those, 49% had witnessed or experienced 3 or more anti-Semitic incidents (8% had witnessed or experienced 10 or more Anti-Semitic incidents in the previous 12 months).

images-3However, it would be wrong to leave the impression that vulnerability of visibility is an exclusive preserve of the ultra-Orthodox or the UK.

Just recently a Jewish student was denied a seat on a train in Berlin due to her Magen-David necklace.

Two women saw her, noticed her necklace, then put their bags on the empty seats next to them, to prevent her from sitting down.  They reaffirmed their actions through words of hate towards her.

Disgracefully, the other passengers studiously ignored what was going on and looked at the floor or window.

images-2The victim said she experiences such negative experiences whenever her Magen-David is visible, therefore,  usually choosing to hide it with a scarf.

On Wednesday we reported that Guy Muller of the Netherlands Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) explained the hazards of appearing externally Jewish in public: “If you walk around and are identifiable as a Jew, there is a higher chance that you will be attacked. We know that there are people who are attacked more than once each year.”

Famously, Zvi Ammar, the head of Marseille’s Israelite Consistory urged men to stop wearing their kippah after yet a further violent anti-Semitic attack on a Jew.

Mr Ammar called on Jews “not to wear the kippah in the street to avoid being identified as Jewish”.

“It is sad to find ourselves in this position in 2016, in a great democratic country like France,” he said.

images“But faced with an exceptional situation, we have to take exceptional measures. It causes me such pain to come to this conclusion but I do not want anyone to die in Marseille because they had a kippah on their head.”

This led to remarkable scenes of French politicians, so usually ardent in their advocacy of secularism, wearing kippot into the national parliament.

None of these are truly a surprise against the backdrop of the rocketing rates of European anti-Semitism.

Just to say it was revealed that 35% of Hungarians hold “high or moderate” anti-Semitic views.

The survey, which questioned 1,200 Hungarian citizens on their views toward Jews, was initiated by the Action and Protection Foundation, a Hungarian organization combating anti-Semitism in the country.

Twenty-three percent of respondents claimed to hold “extreme” anti-Semitic views towards Jews, while 12% claimed to hold “moderate” anti-Semitic views towards Jews. Shockingly, 31% said they do not wish to have Jewish neighbors.

Even in neighboring Poland there is a high level of anti-Semitism. A survey conducted by the National Institute for Public Opinion Research found that 37% of respondents said they “do not like Jews”.

Yet, despite all of this, does AntiSemitismWatch suggest hiding away our precious signs of our Judaism? Of course not!

Do not hide. Take sensible precautions, in the same way any community or individual should, and rally, campaign and argue the point, but never hide. When they have forced us into hiding, that is a victory, the first broken window.

It will only encourage more of the same actions. Instead, find wherever the hate is being preached and stand against it.

Stand strong our friends!

Kosher cafe in Warsaw vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti

The Tel Aviv Cafe in Warsaw, Poland is not what you might expect to find on a visit to the city. A Kosher vegetarian restaurant serving Israeli style cuisine and exceptionally popular according the myriad of reviews found online. A nice surprise all in all.

tel aviv 1However, unfortunately, the restaurant received a recent nasty surprise in the form of anti-Semitic graffiti being spray-painted  across the entire frontage.

The translation of these slogans read, “Free Palestine,” “Zionism is Racism,” and “The wall is your shame.”

The identity of the perpetrators is not yet known. However, the owners confirmed via their Facebook page that the matter had been reported to police. They tried to make light of the situation asking whether there was, “Enough water to wash it all” off? They finished their post with the slogan, “MAKE HUMMUS NOT WALL!!!!”tel aviv 2

Anti-Semitic vandalism in Poland is not a new problem. In February, anti-Semitic graffiti was spray painted on monuments at a Jewish cemetery in the city of Sochaczew (pronounced: Sokhatchev) in central Poland. The text included the statement, “Holocaust never happened”.

Despite appeals by the Sochaczew museum to have the graffiti removed, at the end of February it was still in place.


Pope announces visit to Auschwitz as guard on trial told, “He must of known”

Pope Francis will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in July, it has been announced.

He will visit the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland on July 29, on the third day of his visit to the country.

Two of his predecessors have also visited the camp, John Paul II – himself Polish – in 1979 and retired pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

At a service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in 1995, Pope John Paul II said: ‘Auschwitz, along with so many other concentration camps, remains the horribly eloquent symbol of totalitarianism. It is our duty to make a pilgrimage to these places, in mind and heart, on this 50th anniversary.’

And on Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, he famously bowed to pray for the tragic victims of the deadly camp as ‘a son of the German people’.

After his visit, he said: ‘In a place like this, words fail. In the end there can only be a dread silence, which is a heartfelt cry to God. Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?’

auschwitzThe news of the visit comes as a Nazi on trial for helping to murder 170,000 Jews at Auschwitz was told he must have known what was going on at the death camp, by a fellow guard.

Jakob Wendel, a former SS guard who was convicted and served time in Poland after the war, gave evidence against Reinhold Hanning at the hearing in Detmold, Germany.

Hanning, 94, has told investigators he never served in the part of the camp where most of its 1.1million victims were killed. But Wendel, 92, who arrived at the camp in 1942 but didn’t know Hanning, told the court that anyone there for an extended period ‘knew what was going on’.

‘We knew about the gas chambers…we knew what happened there,’ Wendel told the court today.


Read more here.

Polish man indicated for burning effigy of Jew

Polish man has been indicted for burning an effigy of an Orthodox Jew last November, during a protest in front of city hall in the southwestern city of Wroclaw.

The figure was replete with traditional peot and wore a black hat, ironic considering the city was chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2016, along with Basque’s San Sebastian.

The protest was organized by the National-Radical Camp and All-Polish Youth. The effigy was holding an EU flag, likely meant to symbolise anti-Semitic conspiracies of Jewish control. The incident was part of a rally by 200 people who gathered to protest EU requirements that Poland accept refugees from Syria and Iraq.

Currently the Polish prosecutor announced that an indictment on charges of incitement to anti-Semitism and racism has been submitted against Piotr Rybak, a construction contractor who set the Jewish effigy on fire. Rybak may face as long as two years in jail if convicted of the charges leveled against him last week.

According to the indictment announcement, a decision is also to be made in coming days whether or not to stand other people on trial who were involved in the protest and the burning of the effigy.

In video footage from the protest Rybak can be heard saying, “we won’t bring even a single Muslim to Poland. Poland is only for Poles,” before seconds later lighting the Jewish effigy on fire.

Credit: Screenshot/ wyborcza.pl/
Credit: Screenshot/ wyborcza.pl/

In investigation he refused to answer the questions of the police investigators, and claimed he “didn’t do anything forbidden.”

The incident comes amid another case of anti-Semitism in the same city of Wroclaw, as a local high school just recently decided to cancel a ceremony in which a poem containing blatant anti-Semitism was to be read.

During the ceremony, which was organized by the school’s English teacher, the students were to read a poem written by one of the most famous Polish poets, Leszek Czajkowski.

The poem includes the line: “an American Jew writes about your guilt in the Holocaust, the word ‘shame’ is unknown to him, even though he grew up in a Polish family.”

After the parents of several students complained, the management of the school decided to cancel the ceremony.

Read more here.

Polish Jewish cemetery walls desecrated

A group of Jewish tourists from Israel and the US visiting the grave sites of Rebbes and scholars in Easter Europe discovered in the city of Sochaczew (pronounced: Sokhatchev) in central Poland, several memorial structures as well as a few graves that were desecrated with crude graffiti. The text included the statements, “Holocaust never happened” (accompanied by a Hitler Smiling Face), and “Islamic State was here.” There was also “Islam will dominate,” and a vulgar comment about Jews. One large memorial wall called on Allah to bless Hitler.



On September 3, 1939, at the very beginning of the Invasion of Poland, Sochaczew was bombed by the Luftwaffe. German forces remained in Sochaczew until January 17, 1945, when the town was captured by the Red Army. During the war, Sochaczew lost more than 4,000 residents, all of them Jewish, and almost half of its buildings were destroyed.

Follow the link to the original article here.

More impact being felt of the Polish lurch to the right

Recently, AntiSemitismWatch reported on one significant effect the political move to the right was having in Poland.

Unlike the previous Polish presidential incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, who was widely praised and acknowledged for such actions as recognising Polish complicity in the Holocaust, less than a year after Poland elected Andrzej Duda, a previously little-known right-wing politician as president, the impact of Warsaw’s nationalist government is continuing to be felt.


The press is under attack in many countries as populist movements challenge media. In Germany the far-right Pegida movement and the (nearly as far-right) AfD party are known for using the term “Lügenpresse” – the lying press. In Poland, it is the right-wing establishment that is opposed to the media – some of it, anyway. According to Adam Leszczyńsk, a columnist at Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński sees the publication as a spearhead of liberalism and non-Polish values. “In my 22 years of work for Gazeta I have never felt such pressure – and I never got so much hate mail, a lot of it full of antisemitic vitriol,” writes Leszczyńsk, warning that the paper’s mother company could be target of a hostile takeover.

Government institutions, he reports, have cancelled subscriptions, but he notes that “readership has gone up since the elections and morale in the newsroom is high”.

Follow this link to the original article here.

March of the Living teaches the value of confronting anti-Semitism

In an era where there are those concerned about the ongoing impact of assimilation perhaps March of the Living offers a valuable insight into positive ways forward. Not only in terms of preserving Yiddishkeit but also in teaching individuals the importance of standing up to anti-Semitism.

2016-02-15-07-49-33-620037710More than 220,000 participants have experienced March of the Living International (MOLI) trips to Eastern Europe and Israel and now MOLI has published a study examining the effects that the program has had on its participants.

The internationally known Holocaust Educational program which takes on average 10,000-20,000 students annually to Poland and Israel with the goal of educating and inspiring future generations to learn from the destruction of the European Continent during the Second World War, accepts applicants from all walks of life and religions, hoping to ensure that not only is the Holocaust not forgotten, but also that it is never repeated.

The report studies the impacts that the program has on its Jewish Participants, and highlights the educational and religious changes that the program has inspired since its creation in 1988. Of the population surveyed, most initially signed on to the program in order to better understand their Jewish culture. Many of the participants in the study said that the program has directly impacted them, inspiring many to visit, study, or move to Israel. 50 percent of the respondents said that the program caused them to consider moving to Israel later in life.

The study was conducted by Professor William Helmreich of CUNY Graduate Center and the Colin Powell School at City College in New York, a highly respected sociologist and expert on ethnic identity. “What’s most remarkable about the March is how deeply it impacts participants over a period of many years. These include life choices like selecting a mate, moving to Israel, and career choices. In addition, it greatly impacts not only on Jewish identity but also on compassion toward other people as well.”

2016-02-15-07-50-48--346195462Indeed, 54 percent of respondents said that the March had made them more tolerant towards other groups. An effect which increases over the years, as 66 percent of those who attended the March ten years ago, reported it had made them more tolerant.

The study also found that 86 percent of the participants asserted the importance in their spouse being Jewish, and 91 percent in raising their children with some sort of Jewish education. 65 percent felt the importance of raising their children in a Jewish neighborhood.

90 percent of those surveyed also felt the March instilled in them the importance of reacting to confrontations with anti-Semitism, and 95 percent stated the March had strengthened their sense of Jewish Identity.

 “We are very pleased with the results of this study” said Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, chairman of The International March of the Living. “To think that the March is such a successful program in terms of ensuring and enhancing Jewish identity and in making people realize the importance of engaging as a Jew within their communities and caring for those outside of them, truly illustrates the goals that we had when initially forming the first March so many years ago. The International March of the Living looks forward to the next generation of participants and instilling in them these same values.”

Read more here.

What a difference a President can make! Poland moves to strip Jewish Holocaust scholar of award

What a difference a President can make! The previous Polish presidential incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, was widely praised and acknowledged for recognising Polish complicity in the Holocaust. Less than a year after Poland elected Andrzej Duda, a previously little-known right-wing politician as president, Warsaw’s nationalist government has moved to strip a leading Jewish Holocaust scholar of a national honour for asserting simply what Komorowski acknowledged, that Poland was in part responsible for Nazi war crimes against its Jewish population during World War II.

The Guardian reported on Sunday that Jan Tomasz Gross, a Polish-born Princeton University history professor, was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1996 for his extensive work documenting the fate of Polish Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. His notable 2001 book “Neighbors,” examined the massacre of some 1,500 Jews from the village of Jedwabne, as part of which Gross concluded it was the Poles, not the Nazis, who committed the atrocity.

The book inspired the 2012 film “Aftermath,” the first Polish movie to address the responsibility of local residents for the massacres of Jews during the Holocaust.

Jan Tomasz Gross
Jan Tomasz Gross

Gross’s work in recent years has triggered furious reactions by Polish nationalists, who claim there is insufficient evidence to support assertions which they say blacken the country’s reputation by falsely depicting Poland as a perpetrator rather than a victim of Nazi occupation.

In October, Polish prosecutors opened a libel probe against Gross after he sought to explain Poland’s wariness regarding accepting Syrian migrants streaming into Europe by referring to widespread anti-Semitism during the war in an op-ed published in the German newspaper Die Welt.

“The Poles, for example, were indeed rightfully proud of their society’s resistance against the Nazis, but in fact did kill more Jews than Germans during the war,” the 68-year-old historian wrote.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry at the time called Gross’s article “historically untrue, harmful and insulting to Poland.”

Reports that Gross was to be stripped of the honour were met with outrage by Holocaust scholars and academics worldwide, who submitted a number of letters in defense of the historian and slammed Warsaw for attempting to whitewash history.

“The government says Gross is unpatriotic. But he is a patriot who looks at both the darker and lighter periods in Polish history,” wrote one of the signatories, University of Ottawa history professor Jan Grabowski, according to The Guardian.