From all accounts, it seems as if Poland experienced a “Charlottesville” of its own this past Sunday.
The difference, and it’s a huge one, is that Poland was home to over 3 million Jews prior to the Holocaust. One third of Warsaw’s pre-World War II population was Jewish.
Last August’s eerie Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in the death of a woman and the injuring of 20 others, had about it the air of a Hitler Youth rally. There, white supremacists and neo-Nazis lit up the night with torches while chanting “blood and soil” and “you will not replace us.”
So now, Poland is feeling bigotry’s aftershocks, and the nation’s Jewish community, with numbers just over 20,000,
or. 06 percent of the entire population, has every right to be concerned over chants of “White Europe, Europe must be white” and “sieg heil” and “remove Jewry from power.”
The hatred spewed forth from far-right marchers who were part of a March of Independence celebration.
Certainly, we understand that it was a minority of people who shouted the epithets of hatred, many of them wearing masks and burning flares. But we should also take notice of the rising tide of the far right’s dangerous, spreading message.
A handful of Jewish organizations, both inside and outside of Poland, were concerned enough to call on the Polish government to take some sort of action against this dangerous, xenophobic nationalism.
There was a serious threat to the stability of one of the world’s most numerous and most learned Jewish communities about 80 years ago, and its results were catastrophic.
Jewish schools, both locally and nationally, typically send their senior class to Poland to see Auschwitz and the evidence of the unthinkable. And our younger generations come away with a resolve that this will never happen again.
That is why it is important that we as a people not tolerate these vile acts, especially in places like Warsaw where we have a historical connection we never wanted to own. And for the sake of those who witnessed and survive today, we cannot be silent.
It’s got to be important to us.
The presence of contemporary Polish anti-Semitism, of marchers’ chants and flares lighting up the night are all too forebodingly familiar.