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WATCH: Does Anti-Semitism Still Exist In Poland?

On November 11th, 60,000 protesters commemorated Polish Independence Day in a scene reminiscent of Charlottesville. As I later wrote in the Forward, a smaller contingency marched down my street, a part of the former Warsaw Jewish Ghetto.

The march was organized in part by two self-proclaimed “radical nationalist” groups who take their name from anti-Semitic leagues of the 1920’s and ‘30’s.

To me, the march, with its clear xenophobic and racist roots, was representative of the populist ethno-nationalism finding strength today in both Poland and America. I felt I had to write about it.

After reading my piece, Marcin Makowski, a journalist for Wirtualna Polska and the right-wing weekly Do Rzeczy, invited me to Kraków see the ‘real Poland,’ a country he believes to be misrepresented by the hateful elements of the protest.

Marcin saw the protest in a different light than I did. As he wrote in Wirtualna Polska, to him only 500 of the 60,000 protestors were extremists. To his credit, Marcin believes they, the 500, should be condemned. But, following his numbers, what to make of the other protesters, some of whom invariably marched next to these extremists?

Marcin also argued in his piece that the burden fell on the current right-wing government to explain the march to the outside world. But don’t the images of burning torches and banners calling for an ethnically pure Europe speak for themselves?

We didn’t come to agreement on these questions, but Marcin and I both agreed that dialogue was the best way to approach these difficult issues, and I sincerely thank him and the Wirtualna Polska team for inviting me to this cross-cultural encounter.


Sam Rubin is a Fulbright Research Fellow based in Warsaw, Poland. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government or Fulbright.




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