Two examples of contemporary Polish antisemitism

Ever since I read Jerzy Kosiński’s 1965 novel The Painted Bird, I was freed from any misconception that antisemitism in Hungary is unique or somehow more odious than that appearing elsewhere in Central Europe. In fact, in some ways, Poland’s religiosity may have contributed to a particularly fervid form of hatred. In The Painted Bird, we follow the story of a child during World War II, who wanders without his parents through rural Poland. He is abused almost everywhere along the way for appearing different–we never really learn whether he is Jewish or Roma–but he is certainly one or the other.

Expressions of antisemitism are on the rise in Poland and they are especially brazen. Most recently, Slawomir Dul, a nationalist activist, boasted: ” I did it. I hung a Jew.” What Mr. Dul had done is hung in effigy Jakub Berman, the late communist politician of Jewish origins, in the town of Lodz. For greater emphasis, the “hanging” occurred in what was once the Lodz Ghetto and it happened in front of a police station. Why was this so important to Mr. Dul? He explained that he was “liberating Poland from American Jews’ occupation.”

The police allowed for Mr. Dul to complete his public performance without intervening. Officers only demanded that he leave the premises after they feared public disorder from a growing number of infuriated passers-by.

Polish nationalist activist Sławomir Dul hangs an effigy of late communist politician Jakub Berman, captioned ‘Jew,’ in Lodz on April 30. 2019

This is the second incident in just two weeks when antisemitism takes the form of public displays in Poland. On 26 April, locals in the town of Pruchnik embraced an 18th century ritual of symbolically casting judgment on Judas, who had betrayed Christ. Judas was portrayed through a larger than life effigy, complete with an exaggerated hooked nose and sidelocks. Children participated in the kicking and beating of the effigy, before setting it on fire. Attorney General Agnieszka Kaczorowska for Poland’s  Jaroslaw province said that this incident was being treated as a suspected hate crime. The investigation would also explore whether parents had instructed their children to participate.

Why Jesus himself was not also portrayed in the same stereotypical and hateful way, given that he too was a Jew and remained so for his entire earthly life, including during the Passover meal that we refer to as the Last Supper, is a question that religious anti-Semites likely find difficult to answer.

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