Poland to probe Auschwitz protesters
The Polish authorities say they have opened an investigation into an anti-Semitic protest by extremists near the gates of Auschwitz.
The incident on Sunday in Oswiecim, the southern Polish town which hosted the Auschwitz death camp during the Second World War, happened as Holocaust survivors gathered to mark the 74th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, which is marked as Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The group chanted anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli slogans at the entrance to the former death camp complex, where at least 1.1 million people were murdered.
Piotr Rybak, a far-right activist with a conviction for burning an effigy of an Orthodox Jew in 2015, was filmed saying, “We must tell Jewish invaders… that we are masters of this country.”
Mariusz Slomka, a prosecutor in Oswiecim, said the district office was investigating. It is a crime in Poland to incite hatred based on religion or race.
Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government was criticised by the opposition for its failure to prevent the protest.
While Holocaust survivors and politicians, including the Polish prime minister, paid tribute to those butchered at the site, Rybak led chants of “time to fight against the Jews and drive them out of Poland”.
The crowd of about 50 held banners saying Germany was solely responsible for the Holocaust and one protester was filmed saying Israel had developed 5G mobile technology to “depopulate the Polish nation”.
The opposition says the populist PiS administration has boosted racism and attempting to rewrite history with a law last year making it a crime to suggest Poles were involved in the Holocaust.
When called to charge the protesters, Polish interior minister Joachim Brudzinskip tweeted: “What am I supposed to be responding to? The fact that somebody who is not right in the head blames a certain nation for all the evil in the world and his own frustration? It is improper and unwise to try and blame the government for the anti-Semitism in the minds of these mad fools.”
A poll commissioned by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said 5 per cent British adults did not believe the Holocaust occurred, and another 12 per cent believed its scale was exaggerated.
Nearly 50 per cent of respondents said they did not know how many Jews were murdered with 20 per cent answering that the number was fewer than 2 million, rather than 6 million.
The poll of 2,000 was conducted by the Opinion Matters.
In November, a CNN poll found 28 per cent of respondents believed Jews had “too much influence” in business; 20 per cent felt Jews had disproportionate influence in the media and politics and nearly 25 per cent said Jews had too much influence in wars around the world.
Auschwitz. Picture credit: Wikimedia