Tag Archives: Warsaw

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
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.

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.

 

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.

2016-02-23-16-26-27-1843709265

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.

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.