Poland Gets Support From Europe on Tough Borders

Good example of “weaponization” of refugees:

The migration crisis of 2015, when millions of migrants and asylum seekers surged over Europe’s borders, nearly tore apart the European Union. Many members offered asylum to the refugees; others, like Poland and Hungary, wanted no part of it.

Six years later, the current standoff at the border of Poland and Belarus has echoes of that crisis, but this time, European officials insist that member states are united when it comes to defending Europe’s borders and that uncontrolled immigration is over.

What is different, the Europeans say, is that this crisis is entirely manufactured by the dictator of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, as a response to sanctions that the Europeans imposed on his country in the face of a stolen election and a vicious repression of domestic dissent.

“This area between the Poland and Belarus borders is not a migration issue, but part of the aggression of Lukashenko toward Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, with the aim to destabilize the E.U.,” Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for home affairs, said in an interview over the summer.

The crisis began in late August, when growing groups of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, began massing at the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, shepherded there by Belarus. That movement has now become much larger, with at least 4,000 or more men, women and children trapped in the freezing cold, without proper shelter or toilets, between Belarus and its neighbors.

Both Poland and Lithuania declared states of emergency and fortified their borders, while Belarusian forces have in some cases aided the migrants in breaking through. The border regions have been shut to journalists and aid workers, but upsetting videos and pictures of the migrants facing barbed wire have been distributed, often by Belarus itself.

On Wednesday, the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, called Mr. Lukashenko’s tactics a “cynical power play” and said that blackmail must not be allowed to succeed. In Washington the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, met President Biden and emerged to say that what was transpiring on the Belarus border is “a hybrid attack, not a migration crisis.”

Source: Poland Gets Support From Europe on Tough Borders

Losing steam, Polish government plays immigration card

Sad but not unexpected:

As it loses steam in the polls, Poland’s right-wing populist government is playing the anti-immigration card that helped it win in 2015, hoping to take back the political initiative, analysts said.

Thousands of migrants — most of them from the Middle East — have crossed from Belarus into eastern EU states, including Poland, in recent months.

The EU suspects the influx is engineered by the Belarusian regime in retaliation against increasingly stringent EU sanctions, with Poland the Baltic states calling it a “hybrid attack”.

Political attention in Poland in recent weeks has focused on a group of around 30 migrants camped out on the border between Poland and Belarus.

Poland is refusing to let in the migrants, said to be Afghans by a charity trying to help them, or give them aid without the consent of Belarus.

“It cannot be ruled out that there will be early elections next year… and it is by no means certain that the Law and Justice (PiS) party will win a majority or manage to piece together a coalition,” said Agata Szczesniak, a political analyst for the news portal OKO.press.

The government lost its formal parliamentary majority earlier this month after the departure of a junior coalition partner.

A recent poll by Kantar also found that PiS had fallen by three points in the polls and is now neck-and-neck with the main opposition grouping, Civic Platform, at 26 percent.

“To go back up in the polls, PiS is trying to replay what happened in 2015 but even more so. It is focusing public emotion around the image and rhetoric of a war” against migrants, Szczesniak said.

During Europe’s migration crisis of 2015, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski scored electoral points in parliamentary elections that year with his anti-immigration rhetoric, including warnings about the diseases and “all sorts of parasites” that the migrants might bring with them.

– ‘Holy Polish territory’ –

The government has remained intransigent over the migrants on the border even after multiple appeals from the UN refugee agency, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said he is protecting “holy Polish territory”.

Dressed in military-style wear, he has visited the border to announce the building of a fence.

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski has promised to “defend Poland against migrants” and Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak has sent 2,000 soldiers to the border.

“What is happening at the border is political gold” for the government, said former EU chief Donald Tusk, now head of Civic Platform.

Adam Szostkiewicz, a political commentator for the weekly Polityka, said the government was “building its election campaign around this”.

But analysts pointed out that public feeling around the issue has changed in recent years.

Many Poles sympathise with Afghans and are growing used to higher levels of immigration in the country, particularly of Ukrainians and Belarusians.

“At the time, around 70 percent of Poles said they were opposed to letting in refugees. Today, it is 55 percent,” said Szczesniak.

– Confusion –

The government may also be sending a mixed message.

In recent days, it has also evacuated almost 1,000 Afghans who worked for Poland’s military contingent.

“On the one hand, the PiS is helping Afghans and on the other it is rejecting them. This creates confusion,” said Szczesniak.

Szostkiewicz said the fact that the crisis could be orchestrated by Minsk “does not justify the lack of basic empathy… and Poles can see that”.

The situation of the group blocked at the border has also prompted pleas from Poland’s Catholic Church, which is traditionally close to the current government.

Poland’s leading Catholic clergyman, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, has appealed for political leaders “to be guided above all by the spirit of hospitality, respect for new arrivals and goodwill”.

Source: Losing steam, Polish government plays immigration card

Poland, Israel in diplomatic spat over Poland’s property law

Ongoing Polish government denial:

Poland and Israel have summoned each other’s diplomats in a growing dispute over Poland’s planned changes to property restitution rules that Israel and Jewish organizations say would prevent Jewish claims for compensation or property seized during the Holocaust and communist times.

On Monday, Israeli charge d ’affaires ​Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon met with Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski, who insisted the new regulations do not bar any property claims, which should be made through courts. Poland also says it mustn’t be made responsible for property seizures by Nazi Germany during its World War II occupation of Poland.

“These regulations are not directed against anyone,” Jablonski said, adding that there is a lot of misunderstanding of their aim as they give the law a steady framework.

Jablonski later said Ben-Ari Yaalon repeated the embassy’s statement from last week, which called the new regulations “immoral” and said they “will have a serious impact” on bilateral relations.

Poland’s ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, was at the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Sunday, explaining the new regulations made to align with a 2015 ruling by the top constitutional court.

Poland’s parliament is processing the changes to prevent ownership and other administrative decisions from being declared void after 30 years. It says this is a response to fraud and irregularities that have emerged in the restitution process. The changes still require approval from the Senate and the president.

The World Jewish Restitution Organization said it was “deeply disappointed” by Poland’s response to the concerns.

“The house or shop or factory in a town in Poland affected by this legislation was not taken by Germany, it was taken by Poland. It sits today in Poland and its use has benefited Poland for over 70 years. It is time to recognize this fact and for Poland to do justice for those who suffered so much,” said the group’s chief, Gideon Taylor.

Last week, the U.S. State Department weighed in, with spokesperson Ned Price tweeting that the changes were a “step in the wrong direction” and urged Poland “not to move this legislation forward.”

Before World War II, Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish community of some 3.5 million people. Most were killed in the Holocaust under Nazi Germany’s occupation and their property was confiscated. Poland’s post-war communist authorities seized those properties, along with the property of non-Jewish owners in Warsaw and other cities. The end of communism in 1989 opened the door to restitution claims, most of which would be coming from Poles.

The still unresolved matter has been a constant source of bitterness and political tension between Poland and Israel.

In 2001, a draft law foreseeing compensation for seized private property was approved in parliament but vetoed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski. He claimed it violated social equality principles and would hurt Poland’s economic development, implying that compensation claims would result in large payouts. He also said individual claims should be made through the courts.

Poland is the only European country that has not offered any compensation for private property seized by the state in its recent history. Only the remaining communal Jewish property, like some synagogues, prayer houses and cemeteries, mostly in disrepair, have been returned where possible or compensated for.

Source: Poland, Israel in diplomatic spat over Poland’s property law

Museum exhibits works by Polish artist confronting Holocaust

Of note:

Warsaw’s Jewish history museum opened an exhibition Thursday featuring works by a renowned Polish artist that confront the lingering and melancholy presence of the Holocaust in Poland, where Nazi German forces carried out their destruction of Europe’s Jews and other atrocities.

“Wilhem Sasnal: Such a Landscape” opened Thursday at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The dozens of paintings and drawings on display confront the Holocaust in the nation’s physical and mental landscape and the difficulty in addressing an unsettled past.

Sasnal, who is not Jewish, has for two decades been grappling with this history. The 48-year-old described a generational need to confront the past, also because parts of Polish society refuse to acknowledge that while Poland was victimized by Nazi Germany, there were also some Poles who joined in the despoliation and murder of the nation’s Jews.

For decades after World War II, such discussions were taboo, with the themes of Polish sacrifice and honor dominating historical memory. But with the new openness that came with the fall of communism in 1989, scholars and artists began studying and speaking openly of anti-Semitism and the participation by some Poles in the German crimes. Each new book or film has touched a raw nerve.

“The history of the Second World War was obscured until 1989,” Sasnal said.

It was then “extremely shocking,” he said, when scholars began to reveal wartime wrongdoing by Poles, including the 1941 killing of hundreds of Jews by Poles in the town of Jedwabne.

“At the beginning I felt anger and shame,” he told The Associated Press.

“And it’s still so difficult to see that people don’t want to acknowledge it. People totally refuse, and this is the mainstream Polish government attitude.”

Sasnal is one of Poland’s most prominent living artists. His works are included in collections at the Museum of Modern Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris, among others.

Sasnal also acknowledged that Poland is often unfairly judged — that sometimes those outside of Poland lose sight of the bigger picture.

Poland was occupied by German forces who killed millions of Polish citizens — some 2 million Christian Poles as well as 3 million Jews. Many Poles fought the Germans at home and abroad and the state never collaborated with Nazi Germany. Thousands of Poles have also been recognized by Yad Vashem for risking their own lives to save Jews.

Yet Sasnal believes that Poles must acknowledge the bad along with the good.

“Unless we accept such a complex past, we will be judged and we will be misjudged,” he said.

The exhibition comprises two decades of works that touch in some way on the Holocaust — works that Sasnal did while also dealing with other topics.

The oldest ones were inspired by cartoonist Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust cartoon stories in his “Maus” books. The newest ones were created this year especially for the exhibition.

There are paintings of former death camps, but they are always contextualized, with Sasnal’s bike or his wife looking from inside a car at the gates of Auschwitz — because to depict the death camps alone would be too banal and brutal, he said.

The Auschwitz paintings were produced after he and his wife passed by the memorial site on their way home from a New Year’s Eve party on Jan. 1. Millions travel to the site from around the world. But for many Poles — including Sasnal, who lives in nearby Krakow — the presence of genocide memorial sites are part of the landscape of daily life.

A painting of an imagined map of Poland bordering Israel recalls the long co-existence of Jews with Poles in Poland, a Jewish homeland for centuries.

A portrait of Hitler has been covered in black paint and crossed out with a wooden bar, an evil too extreme to depict figuratively.

Paintings that draw on images first created by French painter Edgar Degas, an antisemite, are reminders of the antisemitism pervasive across Europe that created fertile soil for the Holocaust. One evokes a bathing women modeled on a Degas work superimposed with a swastika.

Paintings of Gypsies or stereotypical images of Africans in the popular imagination show how other groups, along with Jews, have long been considered the “other” in society.

Ahead of the opening, the curator, Adam Szymczyk, braced for the possibility that this exhibition, too, might spark anger from nationalists and right-wingers.

But now that a right-wing party runs the country — and is a co-partner in the museum, which is a public-private partnership — he said he expected the reaction to be more muted.

He said both he and Sasnal were driven by a need to express remorse.

“I think this is our way of saying sorry on behalf of others,” he said. “The others don’t say ‘I’m sorry’ so we have to. It’s a duty.”

The exhibition runs until January 10.

Source: Museum exhibits works by Polish artist confronting Holocaust

Auschwitz inmates’ families oppose ex-PM on museum council

Of note:

Relatives of former Auschwitz prisoners from Poland are protesting the appointment of a top member of the country’s right-wing ruling party to an advisory council at the state-run Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in Poland.

They argue that the former prime minster, Beata Szydlo, has tolerated “openly fascist” groups and supported attempts to stifle research into the Holocaust, among other complaints.

Szydlo was appointed in April to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Council, a body of experts that advises the museum director. That prompted three members of the nine-member panel of experts to resign, followed by a fourth resignation reported this week.

On Friday evening, the news portal Onet carried a letter signed by children and grandchildren of former Polish prisoners, as well as one Auschwitz survivor, addressed to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

They did not want Szydlo because of her and the ruling Law and Justice party’s strong opposition to accepting refugees and the conservative party’s attempts in the past to win over voters on the extreme right.

“We remember statements that excluded refugees, the undermining of achievements of Holocaust researchers, the toleration of openly fascist organizations, and finally denying European Union alliances,” they wrote to Morawiecki, according to the letter quoted by Onet. “We do not agree to this.”

Early on during World War II, the German forces operated Auschwitz as a camp for Polish prisoners, including Catholic clergy and members of the resistance. They later created nearby Birkenau for the mass killing of Jews from across Europe. In all, some 1.1 million people were murdered at the site located today in southern Poland.

Among those who signed the letter to Morawiecki were the son and two granddaughters of Capt. Witold Pilecki, one of the most notable heroes of the Polish resistance. Pilecki volunteered to be an Auschwitz inmate and smuggled out reports of atrocities there before fleeing. He was tortured and executed in a show trial by communists after the war.

There were no immediate reactions from the Polish government on Friday evening.

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, who appointed Szydlo to the council, reacted after the first three resignations by denouncing them.

Glinski said it was an for the museum to have Szydlo on the council and said the resignations threatened to “politicize the discussion around the most important museum of martyrdom in Poland, a place of world heritage.”

Szydlo is now is a member of the European Parliament for the Law and Justice party. She has studied ethnography and history, and is from the area of Oswiecim, the Polish town where the site of the former Auschwitz death camp is located.

Source: Auschwitz inmates’ families oppose ex-PM on museum council

Polish court rebukes Canadian historian for defaming alleged Nazi collaborator

Sigh….

A Polish court order that an eminent Canadian historian and his co-editor apologize for suggesting a man helped kill Jews during the Second World World has angered Jewish human rights activists in Canada and abroad.

They say the ruling against Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking is part of an ongoing effort to obscure Polish complicity in the genocide of Jews during the Holocaust.

Michael Levitt, head of Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, called the ruling shocking and shameful.

“Poland cannot continue to bury the facts and silence Holocaust scholars,” Levitt said. “Its actions must be roundly rejected by Canada and the rest of the international community.”

The group said it was reaching out to senior government leaders urging them to speak out against “Holocaust distortion in Poland.”

At issue was a short passage in a 1,600-page book “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland,” co-edited by Grabowski, a professor at the University of Ottawa, and Engelking, director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw.

According to the passage, which Engelking wrote, Edward Malinowski robbed a Jewish woman during the war and contributed to the deaths of 22 other Jews hiding in a forest in Malinowo in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

Malinowski’s niece, Filomena Leszczynska, 81, argued her uncle was a Polish hero who had saved Jews, and that the scholars had defamed her and her family. She demanded a retraction and 100,000 zlotys – about C$34,000 – in compensation.

Judge Ewa Jonczyk, of the District Court in Warsaw, ordered the authors to make a written apology for “providing inaccurate information” and “violating his honour.” The judge, however, stopped short of imposing monetary compensation, saying it could hinder academic research.

Nevertheless, Mark Weitzman, with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the ruling opened the door to further intimidation of Holocaust scholars and researchers.

“By ordering the scholars to ‘apologize,’ it puts both historians and victims on trial, and offers protection to the reputations of Poles and others who collaborated in the murder of Jews,” Weitzman said

Grabowski could not be reached for comment, although Engelking said they planned an appeal.

Grabowski, whose work on the Holocaust has attracted death threats, told The Canadian Press in 2017 that he would not allow fierce criticism of his research in Poland to deter him.

“I feel personally attacked but this is for me a much more dangerous and general problem that has to be dealt with,” Grabowski said. “It’s a pure and simple attack on basic academic freedoms, which we take for granted here in Canada. I’m dismayed.”

The Nazis slaughtered about three million Jews and another two million Christians in Poland during the war. While many Poles resisted the invaders, others collaborated with the Nazis.

Leszczynska was backed by the Polish League Against Defamation, a group that fights harmful and untruthful depictions of Poland. The league, which has previously attacked Grabowski’s work, is ideologically aligned with the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party.

The researchers, however, viewed the case as an attempt to discredit their overall findings and discourage other researchers from investigating the truth about Polish involvement in the German mass murder of Jews.

Source: Polish court rebukes Canadian historian for defaming alleged Nazi collaborator

Future of Holocaust research in Poland hinges on libel case

Of note, ongoing disturbing trend:

Two Polish historians are facing a libel trial for a scholarly examination of Polish during World War II, a case whose outcome is expected to determine the fate of independent Holocaust research under Poland’s nationalist government.

A verdict is expected in Warsaw’s district court on Feb. 9 in the case against Barbara Engelking, a historian with the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw, and Jan Grabowski, a professor of history at the University of Ottawa.

It is the first major legal test in the wake of a 2018 law that makes it a crime to falsely accuse the Polish nation of crimes committed by Nazi Germany. The law caused a major diplomatic spat with Israel.

Since it won power in 2015, the conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, has sought to discourage investigations into Polish wrongdoing during the wartime German occupation, preferring instead to almost exclusively stress Polish heroism and suffering. The aim is to promote national pride — but critics say the government has been whitewashing the fact that some Poles also collaborated in the German murder of Jews.

The Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem said the legal effort “constitutes a serious attack on free and open research.”

A number of other historical institutions have condemned the case as the verdict nears, with the Paris-based Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah describing it Tuesday as a “witch hunt” and a “pernicious invasion into the very heart of research.”

The case on a 1,600-page, two-volume historical work in Polish, “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland,” which was co-edited by Grabowski and Engelking. An abridged English version is due to be published in a few months.

Grabowski and Engelking say they see the case as an attempt to discredit them personally and to discourage other researchers from investigating the truth about the extermination of Jews in Poland.

“This is a case of the Polish state against freedom of research,” Grabowski told The Associated Press on Monday.

Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian whose father was a Polish Holocaust survivor, has faced considerable anti-Semitic harassment by nationalists, both online and at lectures in Canada, France and elsewhere.

The niece of a man in the village of Malinowo, whose wartime is briefly mentioned, is suing Grabowski and Engelking, demanding 100,000 zlotys ($27,000) in damages and an apology in newspapers.

According to evidence presented in the book, Edward Malinowski, an elder in the village, allowed a Jewish woman to survive by helping her pass as a non-Jew. But the survivor is also quoted as saying that he was an accomplice in the deaths of several dozen Jews.

The niece, Filomena Leszczynska, has been backed by a group, the Polish League Against Defamation, which receives funding from the Polish government.

That organization argued that the two scholars are guilty of “defiling the good name” of a Polish hero, whom they claim had no role in harming Jews, and by extension harming the dignity and pride of all Poles. The lawsuit was filed in court free of charge as allowed under the 2018 law.

Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called “Night Without End” a “meticulously researched and sourced book … that details thousands of cases of complicity by Poles in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.”

“The proceedings against these two scholars of international repute are nothing more than an attempt to use the legal system to muzzle and intimidate scholarship on the Holocaust in Poland,” Weitzman said.

Germany occupied Poland in 1939, annexing part of it to Germany and directly governing the rest. Unlike other countries occupied by Germany, there was no collaborationist government in Poland. The pre-war Polish government and military fled into exile, except for an underground resistance army that fought the Nazis inside the country.

Yet some people in Poland collaborated with the Germans in hunting down and killing Jews, in many cases people who had fled ghettos and sought to hide in the countryside.

Grabowski said “Night Without End” is “multi-faceted, and it talks about Polish virtue just as much. It paints a truthful picture.”

“The Holocaust is not here to help the Polish ego and morale, it’s a drama involving the death of 6 million people — which seems to be forgotten by the nationalists,” he said.

A deputy foreign minister, Pawel Jablonski, described the case as a private matter.

“It is everyone’s legal right to seek such a remedy before (a) court if they feel that their rights have been infringed by (another) person or entity,” Jablonski told the AP in an statement Monday. “The government is not involved in the proceedings, it is a private matter to be decided by the court.”

Yet those who fear that the case could stifle independent research take a different view.

“The involvement in this trial of an organization heavily subsidized with public funds can be easily construed as a form of censorship and an attempt to frighten scholars away from publishing the results of their research out of fear of a lawsuit and the ensuing costly litigation,” said Zygmunt Stepinski, director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Source: Future of Holocaust research in Poland hinges on libel case

Polish nationalists protest against US over Holocaust claims

Disheartening:

Several thousand nationalists rallied in Warsaw on Saturday against a US law on the restitution of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust, fuelling concerns about anti-Semitism in the country.

Far-right supporters who marched from the prime minister’s office to the USembassy waved banners reading “No to claims”, “Shame” and “Stop 477”.

The latter refers to the US Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act which requires the US State Department to report to Congress on the progress of countries including Poland on the restitution of Jewish assets seized during World War Two and its aftermath.

The protest took place amid a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic hate speech in public life in Poland and it appeared to be one of the largest anti-Jewish street demonstrations in recent times. It also comes as far-right groups are gaining in popularity, pressuring the conservative government to move further to the right.

‘Biggest European anti-Jewish demonstration in recent years’

Poland was a major victim of Nazi Germany during World War II and those protesting say it is not fair to ask Poland to compensate Jewish victims when Poland has never received adequate compensation from Germany.

“Why should we have to pay money today when nobody gives us anything?” said 22-year-old Kamil Wencwel. “Americans only think about Jewish and not Polish interests.”

The protesters shouted “no to claims!” and “This is Poland, not Polin,” using the Hebrew word for Poland.

Rafal Pankowski, a sociologist who heads the anti-extremist group Never Again, called the march “probably the biggest openly anti-Jewish street demonstration in Europe in recent years.”

One couple wore matching T-shirts reading “death to the enemies of the fatherland,” while another man wore a shirt saying: “I will not apologise for Jedwabne”   a massacre of Jews by their Polish neighbors in 1941 under the German occupation.

Among those far-right politicians who led the march were Janusz Korwin-Mikke and Grzegorz Braun, who have joined forces in a far-right coalition standing in the elections to the European Parliament later this month. Stopping Jewish restitution claims has been one of their key priorities, along with fighting what they call pro-LGBT “propaganda.” The movement is polling well amongst young Polish men.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki echoed the feelings of the protesters at a campaign rally Saturday, saying that it is Poles who deserve compensation.

Poland was the heartland of European Jewish life before the Holocaust, with most of the 3.3 million Polish Jews murdered by occupying Nazi German forces. Christian Poles were also targeted by the Germans, killed in massacres and in concentration camps.

Looted property ‘continues to benefit Polish economy’

Many Poles to this day have a feeling that their suffering has not been adequately acknowledged by the world, while that of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust has, creating what has often been called a “competition of victimhood.”

Many of the properties of both Jews and non-Jews were destroyed during the war or were looted and later nationalised by the communist regime that followed.

Protesters said paying compensation would ruin Poland’s economy. But Jewish organisations, particularly the World Jewish Restitution Organisation, have been seeking compensation for Holocaust survivors and their families, consider compensation a matter of justice for a population that was subjected to genocide.

Poland is the only European Union country that hasn’t passed laws regulating the compensation of looted or national property, and the head of the WJRO, Gideon Taylor, noted Saturday that such property “continues to benefit the Polish economy.”

At least two US Confederate flags were visible at Saturday’s protest, which began with a rally in front of the prime minister’s office before the protesters walked to the US Embassy. Men in Native American headdress held a banner with a message pointing to what they see as US double standards: ‘USA, Practice 447 at home. Return stolen lands to the descendants of native tribes.”

With pressure building on this issue, the US State Department’s new envoy on anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, was in Warsaw this past week, telling leaders and media that the US is only urging Poland to fulfil a non-binding commitment it made in 2009 to act on the issue. He also said the US recognises that Poland was a victim of the war and is not dictating how Warsaw regulates compensation.

Source: Polish nationalists protest against US over Holocaust claims

Jewish congress condemns revival of folk tradition in Poland as anti-Semitic

More disturbing news from Poland:

A video published by local website expressjaroslawski.pl showed several dozen locals watching on as an effigy of the disciple Judas was beaten and burned.

The tradition, first reported in the 18th century, was revived on the Christian holiday of Good Friday in the southeastern town of Pruchnik after several years, expressjaroslawski.pl said. In the past the Catholic church has banned the practice over the aggression involved.

“Jews are deeply disturbed by this ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism that led to unimaginable violence and suffering,” Jewish congress CEO Robert Singer said in a statement posted on the organization’s website on Sunday.

“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.”

More than 3 million of a population of 3.2 million Jews were murdered by Nazis in the Holocaust. Many Poles refuse to accept research showing thousands of their countrymen participated in the Holocaust in addition to thousands of others who risked their lives to help Jews.

Poland, ruled since 2015 by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), pulled out of a planned summit in Israel in February after Israel’s acting foreign minister said many Poles had collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two and shared responsibility for the Holocaust.

The government has made what it saw as the defense of national honor over its wartime record a cornerstone of foreign policy.

Tensions between Israel and Poland rose last year after Poland introduced new legislation that would have made the use of phrases such as “Polish death camps” punishable by up to three years in prison.

After pressure from the United States and an outcry in Israel, Poland watered down the legislation, scrapping the prison sentences.

Poland Bashes Immigrants, but Quietly Takes Christian Ones

Telling:

The far-right Law and Justice party came to power in 2015, at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, after running a campaign that inspired choruses of “Poland for Poles.” With national elections due in October, the governing party is once again promoting its vision of “Poland First.”

The party’s loud, anti-immigrant rhetoric has created special headaches for the European Union, which has largely failed to distribute quotas of migrants from North Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East around the Continent because of resistance from Poland and other hard-line member states.

So it may come as a surprise that the Polish government has, very quietly, presided over the largest influx of migrant workers in the country’s modern history — though they are mostly Christians from neighboring Ukraine.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has not been shy about promoting the government’s agenda. “We want to reshape Europe and re-Christianize it,” he said in 2017 in an interview with a Catholic television station. The government recently ordered all new passports include the phrase, “God, Honor, Motherland.”

But immigration is Poland’s paradox. It has benefited greatly from the European Union’s open borders, earning billions of dollars in remittances from the hundreds of thousands of Polish workers who have migrated to other countries in the bloc, especially to Britain. Yet with Poland now facing labor shortages, the government is failing to lure back the diaspora — and is restricted by its political stance against migrants.

If government officials rarely speak about needing migrant workers, the infusion of Ukrainians is apparent in many Polish cities. According to Eurostat, more than 683,000 foreigners received their first residence permits in Poland in 2017, the highest number for any country in the European Union. There are now over two million Ukrainians working in Poland, most flocking to cities that are the engines driving the Polish economy.

The question is whether they will stay. Last year, the European Union began allowing visa-free travel for Ukrainians, and Germany is easing work requirements for skilled workers, targeting Ukrainians. A recent newspaper survey in Poland found that 59 percent of Ukrainians in the country said they would leave for Germany if the labor market opened up.

“There is no ownership of the issue by the government,” said Anna Wicha, a director at the Adecco Group, one of the largest employment agencies in Poland. “You ask how many Ukrainians are working here and they will say 500,000. But it is more than two million. And many may be going to Germany.”

For now, the government lacks a long-term strategy to expand the labor pool. Many experts and some opposition politicians in Poland say the situation will only be resolved if political leaders soften their resistance to migrants and embrace plurality. But at the national level, even talking about immigration can be politically lethal.

When Pawel Chorazy, the deputy minister of investments and development, said during a televised debate before the October local elections that “the inflow of immigrants to Poland needs to be increased to sustain economic growth,” he was met with scorn.

Joachim Brudzinski, the interior minister, said that Mr. Chorazy’s comments were “not a position of the government.” The prime minister, Mr. Morawiecki, said that Mr. Chorazy “got seriously ahead of himself.”

Then he fired him.

“Politicians are dancing on the line, well aware that you can wake up demons,” said Irena Kotowska, head of the center for demography at the Warsaw School of Economics. “It is easy to play into nationalist feeling with anti-immigrant rhetoric. But the reality of the need in the labor market is more and more clear every day.”

“This is a defining moment for the country,” she added. “Some decisions simply have to be made.”

Here in the central city of Lodz, the contradictions of Poland’s migration dilemma are evident. Unlike national leaders, however, the local mayor, Hanna Zdanowska, has embraced immigrants. When she ran last October, she called for an inclusive Poland that welcomed newcomers.

The governing party campaigned hard against her, but she won with 70 percent of the vote, which she credited in part to the city’s history of tolerance. It was once a manufacturing center of hundreds of red brick factories, with a diverse population of Dutch, English and German residents, and a strong Jewish contingent.

Henryk Panusz, 89, whose family were leaders in the knitwear industry and part of a boomtown that was an eclectic mix of ethnicities and cultures, said Lodz “was the promised land.”

“Until the Second World War, there were so many cultures and ethnicities and nationalities,” he added.

After the war, Lodz struggled under Communist rule before the Iron Curtain started disintegrating in Poland in 1989. After the country joined the European Union, providing a chance for people to leave more easily, Lodz saw its population decline to under 690,000, from more than 850,000. That was part of an exodus since 2004 of about 2.5 million people from a nation of around 38 million.

But Poland has also benefited from billions in European Union subsidies that have helped turn the country into one of the Continent’s fastest-growing economies. Lodz has attracted international companies, while reinventing many old factories as cultural spaces to attract a new creative class.

Even as the economy thrives, however, the Polish government has had little success in luring home many of those who went abroad in search of better pay and greater opportunity, despite spending millions on a publicity campaign.

Aleksandra Modrzejewska left Lodz in 2014 and found a job as a waitress when she first arrived in Britain. She now lives in Chelmsford, England, and works as an insurance broker. She says she believes the assurances of the government in London that no matter what happens when Britain leaves the European Union, a process known as Brexit, she will be able to stay.

“No one I know is thinking of leaving,” she said. “Brexit may have an impact on new people coming but, as far as I can tell, for people who have built their lives here, it is not going to change anything.”

“It was just a different quality of life,” she added, explaining her decision to leave Poland. “People are much more open and inviting of different cultures and nationalities.”

For officials in Lodz, and elsewhere in Poland, the labor shortage is a problem that could curb economic growth. More than half of the companies in Poland reported having trouble finding workers, according to a survey by Work Service, Poland’s largest employment agency.

Antonina Marushko, 30, came to Lodz from Ukraine three years ago with her husband and two children. She says the move has been difficult. But, she adds, she does not want to leave. She worked and saved and recently was able to open her own beauty salon.

“Our life is here now,” she said.

To reconcile the new arrivals with the government’s anti-immigrant, Christian identity, Poland’s leaders have gone to great lengths to create narrow policies that almost completely limit the influx to Christians. That goal was all but stated in proposed legislation that would make it easier for people from former Soviet satellite countries that are “culturally similar” to Poland to become permanent residents.

Polish immigration officials declined to be interviewed for this article. But the government has worked so hard for so long to build a narrative that bolsters suspicion of all outsiders that even an immigration policy built on proximity and cultural affinity is fraught.

The influx of Ukrainians has come at the same time as a straining in the relationship between the Polish and Ukrainian governments over the politicization of history and the difficult pasts of the two nations, which share a border that has shifted multiple times over the decades.

For Ukrainians migrating to Poland, those tensions can ripple into daily life. Ms. Marushko, the beauty parlor owner, said that her son was the only Ukrainian in his class and that some of the other children — presumably repeating talk they heard at home — had told him that Poland was for the Poles.

Ms. Marushko said that one of her older Polish clients routinely mocked Ukrainians, calling them radioactive because of Chernobyl, a bitter reference to the nuclear disaster in 1986.

“Things are better now,” Ms. Marushko said, referring to her experiences of prejudice.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Poland is that another generation, despite growing up in an era of economic growth, also seems eager to leave.

“There is still the perception here that you ‘make it’ outside of Poland,” said Ms. Wicha of the Adecco Group.

Ms. Modrzejewska, the insurance broker in Britain, agreed. “Even if you have the worst job, it is a better life,” she said.

She talks frequently with her family and her 14-year-old sister, Magda, who seems to have taken the message to heart.

“I want to be a doctor or a medical engineer,” Magda said. “We also have family in Florida. I am too young to know what I will do, but I think about it and going to Florida is my dream.”