Krakow, Poland – The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has expressed its outrage over a Polish town’s Good Friday ritual lynching of a Judas effigy, pictured as a caricature of a stereotypical Orthodox Jew, describing it as a “ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism”.
“One can only wonder how John Paul II who taught Catholics in his native Poland and all over the world that antisemitism is a sin against God and man would have reacted to this flagrant rejection of his teachings,” stated World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer. “We can only hope that the Church and other institutions will do their best to overcome these frightful prejudices which are a blot on Poland’s good name.”
The ritual, which took place on Friday as part of an Easter celebration in the small south-eastern town of Pruchnik, is meant to symbolise a public trial for Judas, the disciple of Jesus who, according to the New Testament, betrayed Christ and turned him in to the Romans. During the ritual, which has been condemned and banned by the Catholic Church in the past, a straw-filled Judas effigy, pictured with a big red nose, a brimmed black hat and Orthodox-style ringlets, is dragged through the streets, beaten with sticks by hundreds of residents, including children, before being eventually hanged and burned. The words “Judas” and “traitor” were written on the effigy’s chest.
“The Poles need to fight anti-Semitism, not pass laws denying their part in the Holocaust,” reacted Senior Israeli opposition politician, Yair Lapid, “the Netanyahu government should stop stuttering and unequivocally condemn it.”
Israel and Poland have recently seen diplomatic tensions over a controversial law which made it a criminal offense to use the phrase “Polish death camps” to refer to the Nazi-run concentration camps on Polish soil. The row was revived recently when Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cancelled a trip to Jerusalem after Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahou said many Poles had “cooperated” with Nazis in the Holocaust.
A right-wing newspaper was even spotted at a news kiosk inside Poland’s parliament instructing readers on “how to recognize a Jew.” The rocky relationship between the two countries was also put to a test last month when Israel urged Poland to bar Holocaust denier David Irving from entering Poland, after it became apparent that he was planning to lead a tour of Nazi concentration camps in the country later this year.
Yet, with more than 6,800 Polish men and women named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, Poland has the world’s highest count of individuals who have been recognized by Israel for saving Jews from extermination during the Holocaust in World War II. Just last week, Konstanty Rokicki, the Polish vice consul in Switzerland during World War II, was made a member of the Righteous Among the Nations, 60 years after his death.
More than three million Polish Jews were killed during World War II.