Update to POL23465.E of 4 April 1996 on the situation of Jews and the state protection available to them (January 1998 - April 1999) [POL31734.E]

An 8 August 1998 International Herald Tribune article states:

Poland, once called an anti-Semitic country without Jews, no longer deserves that epithet. For one thing, as is becoming increasingly evident, Jews still live in Poland. Not many, of course. The prewar community of three and a half million Jews, with its rich and variegated culture, is gone forever. Still, estimates of Poland's Jewish population range from 15,000 to 20,000(and even, some optimists will tell you, as high as 30,000....

Upon closer scrutiny, however, a less reassuring reality emerges. Side by side with the Jewish revival, and side by side with a greater honesty in the Polish press and among officials about Jewish-Polish relations, anti-Semitism in Poland remains widespread and tenacious. Physical attacks and taunting of Jewish children in schools are generally a thing of the past. But right-wing publications carrying thinly disguised anti-Semitic articles proliferate. Jewish cemeteries are desecrated.

At the insistence of anti-Semitic groups, crosses have been put up near Auschwitz, 90 percent of whose victims were Jews(this despite an explicit promise by the Polish government and church authorities that crosses would not be erected. The Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, has issued a formal protest.

The independent Catholic radio station, Radio Maryja, offers its million of listeners an anti-secular and often explicitly anti-Semitic diet. The Catholic Church has found the courage to condemn its past role in sowing poisonous hated toward the Jews. But when Father Henryk Jankowski, Lech Walesa's confessor, declared that Poland "must not tolerate the presence of the Jewish minority in the country's government"(an allusion to the appointment of Bronislaw Geremek, a Jew, as foreign minister two years ago(one distinguished Jesuit scholar, Stanislaw Musial, protested vehemently. Neither the church as a whole nor any group of Catholic intellectuals followed suit.

[Some of the elementary and high school] textboks, which are approved and distributed by the Ministry of Education, contain such malignant anti-Semitic stereotypes as the "passivity" of Polish Jews vis-à-vis the Germans (they "allowed themselves to be herded into ghettos") and the charges that most Jews before the war were "pro-communists" engaged n "usury" and conspired to "destroy Poland." Yet Jewish friends merely shrugged when I commented that similar distortions of African-American history in U.S. textbooks would elicit a storm of protest....

A 15 December 1998 Deutsche-Presse Agentur (DPA) article states:

The slogans are nothing new in the southern Polish town of Oswiecim. They speak of "Jewish provocations" and the "fight against Jews, communists and freemasons." A small area directly before the memorial to those who died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp has become a place of pilgrimage for Polish anti-Semites. "Polish people, how long do we want to allow the Jews to decide the fate of our beloved Polish fatherland?" they ask in leaflets. A group backing nationalist politician Kazimierz Switon is claiming to "defend" an eight-metre-high wooden cross at Auschwitz, the German name for Oswiecim. The cross, originating from a papal mass, was put up ten years ago without church approval in front of the Old Theatre(the place the Nazis stored the deadly cyanide gas "Zyklon B" which was used to gas the Jews. Jews praying at the site feel disturbed by the clearly visible Christian symbol and are calling for it to be removed....

"The primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, will have to justify himself before God for this fatal error," said Switon. The Church has so far avoided a direct confrontation with the "defenders of the cross" to distribute leaflets unimpeded calling for a "fight against Jews, communists and freemasons" and alleging a "conspiracy of Jews and proabortionists to destroy the Polish nation." Former Auschwitz prisoners visiting the concentration camp are horrified by the slogans. Israel Gutman, of the Holocaust memorial of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, says there can be no doubt that claims of this nature are the expression of the same political ideologies which led to the genocide. He told the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita that he would never have imagined seeing anti-Semitic slogans again in a place such as Auschwitz. "I am convinced that people with such extreme views are in the minority in Poland. But there are many people who can identify with this in some way," he warned. Only a few thousand Jews are now living in Poland. Despite this, anti-Jewish graffiti is everywhere and anti-Jewish literature can be easily bought at station kiosks and bookshops.

Hate for the Jews is even present in parts of the Church. The prelate Henryk Jankowski from Gdansk was given an official warning after a sermon in which he compared the Star of David with the Nazi swstika and the communist hammer and sickle.

A 2 March 1999 Gazeta Wyborcza article states:

On Friday, the Bielsko Public Prosecutor's Office accused Kazimierz Switon of insulting the Sejm of the Polish Republic, Jews and Germans, as well as of inciting hatred between Poles and Jews. These charges were brought because of leaflets distributed near Oswiecim concentration camp....The case was taken over by the Bielsko Voivodship Prosecutor's Office (at present it is the District Prosecutor's Office). Right now the indictment has been directed to Oswiecim District Court. Switon may have to spend up to three years in jail.

A 26 October 1998 TV Polonia emission states:

Fifty-two graves have been destroyed at one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Poland, in Cracow, southern Poland. There are 6,000 graves here, from the last century as well as completely new ones, inside an area of 10 hectares. The vandals destroyed three rows of graves. The oldest and most valuable headstones fell victim. The destruction was carried out during the night. There are no witnesses to the incident.

A 23 March 1999 AP article states:

Polish citizenship, past or present, will be the main criterion when the government decides which property claims to accept. For instance, Jews, no matter where they live, would be eligible if their families were Polish citizens before the war....Some Jewish communal property, such as synagogues and hospitals, has been returned already, but the lack of a restitution law for private land has prevented individual Jews from reclaiming family homes and other property Miroslaw Syzpowski, president of a group that lobbies for restitution for 30,000 former property owners, says 23 percent of Warsaw's real estate was owned by Jews before the war.

No additional information on the situation of Jews in Poland, nor on the state protection available to them, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


The Associated Press (AP). 23 March 1999. Beata Pasek. "Polish Citizenship the Main Criterion for Property Restitution." (NEXIS)

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 15 September 1998. BC Cycle. "Polish Nationalists in Auschwitz Urge Fight Against Jews." (NEXIS)

Gazeta Wyborcza [Warsaw, in Polish]. 2 March 1999. "Anti-Jewish Leader Placed on Trial." (FBIS-EEU-1999-0303 2 Mar. 1999/WNC)

International Herald Tribune [Neuilly-sur-Seine]. 8 August 1998. Abraham Brumberg. "Poland Still Has a Way to Go in Ending Anti-Semitism." (NEXIS)

TV Polonia Satellite Service [Warsaw, in Polish]. "Poland: Jewish Cemetery Vandalised in Cracow." (BBC Summary 26 Oct. 1998/NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Electronic sources IRB databases, Internet, NEXIS/LEXIS, REFWORLD, WNC.

Nationalities Papers [Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK.]. March 1998 - December 1998.

Resource Centre country file on Poland. March 1998 - March 1999.

Transitions [Prague]. January 1998 - February 1999.

One oral source contacted did not provide information on the requested topic.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact other oral sources.