Polish president vows zero tolerance for anti-Semitism after attack on chief rabbi

09-06-2006

Polish President Lech Kaczynski vowed zero tolerance for anti-Semitism when he received the country's chief rabbi, who was attacked in the streets of Warsaw three days ago. The Polish head of State has said that he would not tolerate any kind of anti-Semitic actions in Poland. Radio Polonia's Bogdan Zaryn reports.

Poland 's relatively small Jewish community is still feeling insulted in the aftermath of an attack on the country's chief Rabbi. Rabbi Michael Schudrich was pushed and sprayed with pepper gas by an unidentified man in his mid-twenties on a busy downtown Warsaw street.

Poland was quick to act as both the President's and Prime Minister's office vowed zero tolerance for Anti-Semitism.

Adviser to the Polish Prime Minister Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska says that this unfortunate incident may be the result of many social factors in present-day Poland

"I think there is a serious problem in Poland but not only connected with anti-Semitism. We can observe during the last two-three years growing frustration among young people who feel excluded from the transformation of Polish economy.... Some of them became active homophobes, some of them became active homophobes.

Over the past several months hate mail and insults by anonymous individuals sent to members of Poland's Jewish community has increased considerably. Stanislaw Krajewski who represents the Jewish side in the forum for Polish-Jewish dialogue says that Polish authorities are taking this matter very seriously

"I must emphasis that after the attack on Rabbi Schudrich both the President and the Prime Minister called him and expressed their concern and determination to fight anti-Semitism...... so in a way the leaders of Poland do continue to denounce anti-Semitism. At the same time the far-right has become part of the mainstream now and that has consequences. It encourages extremism even its it's not intentional.

Polish law enforcement agencies have launched an investigation into the incident. Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska from the Polish Prime Minister's office says that an entirely brand new law enforcement agency has been set up to deal with incidents, which involve Anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

"From my point of view a good result of what has happened lately is that the chief of the Polish Police decided to create a special department to fight neo-nazism, Anti-Semitism and racism.

Before the Second World war Poland was perceived to be a melting pot of European Jewry. Though the world still sees Poland as the largest Jewish graveyard in Europe, much is being done to bring Polish and Israeli youths closer together. Historians have been working hard to promote the centuries of the presence of the Jewish community in Poland and its role in this country's development.

But Stanislaw Krajewski thinks that Poland now has to work that much harder to right past wrongs.

"This can't be perceived as a serious physical threat. But still the image of anti-Semistism on the Polish landscape has been confirmed."

Police are still on the lookout for Rabbi Schudrich's attacker. In the meantime Warsaw has asked Washington to help shut down a neo-Nazi website known for publishing blacklists of homosexuals and left wing figures in Poland. It is linked to the Polish branch of the international Blood and Honour organization but is hosted by a US server.

09-06-2006