Warsaw, Poland – Three people were arrested on Monday over their participation in an anti-Semitic march last week, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski announced on Twitter.
Far-right crowd holds anti-Semitic march in central Poland
Held in the city of Kalisz on Poland’s Independence Day, the march gathered hundreds of far-right supporters who chanted “Death to Jews” and burned a copy of a 1264 medieval document that offered Jewish people protection and settlement rights in Polish lands.
Participants also called “LGBT, pederasts and Zionists” “enemies of Poland” who need to be expelled, while chanting “this is Poland, not Polin”, referring to the country’s name in Hebrew.
The backlash to the demonstration was swift, with Poland’s Union of Jewish Religious Communities releasing a statement on Monday saying that Polish Jews “have not experienced such contempt and hatred expression in public for years.”
“Poland is our homeland. We are both Jews and Poles. We are asking why our right to regard Poland as our home is being questioned ever more often and ever more openly.”
Polish and Israeli authorities condemn Kalisz demonstration
Once the largest in Europe, Poland’s Jewish community was virtually decimated by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust and is estimated to number only in the thousands today.
On Twitter, Interior Minister Kaminski called the Kalisz march a “shameful and disgraceful event”, adding that there would be “no consent to anti-Semitism and hatred based on nationality, religion or ethnicity.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda also condemned the events that unfolded in Kalisz.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the “unequivocal condemnation” of the anti-Semitic march by Polish authorities, saying it reminded “every Jew in the world of the strength of hatred that exists in the world.”
Criticized for not taking immediate action to dissolve the march, Kalisz mayor Krystian Kinastowski issued a statement the following day condemning the protest and praising the city’s “multicultural and tolerant” history.
Independence Day march upheld in Warsaw
Held on Poland’s Independence Day, the demonstration in Kalisz was not directly linked to the main march organized in Warsaw.
Attracting annually tens of thousands of Poles to commemorate their country’s independence in 1918, the demonstration in Warsaw has in recent years also been overshadowed and partly coopted by extremist far-right groups – some of which benefit from public funding and receive more or less implicit support from ruling party officials.
Saying the city was no place for “fascist slogans”, Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski tried to ban this year’s march but was eventually overruled by the government, who declared it an official national ceremony.