Poland dismisses soccer fans’ anti-Semitic chants

Poland dismisses soccer fans’ anti-Semitic chants

Prosecutor says cries of 'Ride on, Jews' and 'Into the ovens' at a game are not hate speech since they were not directed at Jews

Soccer fans at a match in Krakow, Poland on October 6, 2013. (
Soccer fans at a match in Krakow, Poland on October 6, 2013. (soccer fan image via Shutterstock)

Several Jewish organizations have criticized a Polish prosecutor’s decision not to try soccer fans who chanted about Jews and Auschwitz.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office of Poznan in central Poland said last week that no charges would be brought against the fans because they did not mean to offend Jews when they chanted the slogans, according to a January 9 report by the Glos Wielkopolski daily.

The spokeswoman, Magdalena Mazur-Prus, was referring to chants at a match in September between the Lech Poznan team and Widzew, a club from the city of Lodz, which before the Holocaust had a population that was one-third Jewish.

The Poznan fans shouted to the Lodz fans: “You belong in Auschwitz,” “Ride on, Jews” and “Into the ovens,” according to Glos Wielkopolski. The daily also reported the Poznan fans shouted, “Go to the gas, RTS” — an acronym that refers to the Lodz squad.

The Poznan prosecutor’s office decided to drop the charges because the chants were directed at fans rather than Jews, and therefore were not intended as incitement to racial hatred, according to Mazur-Prus.

“Of course, such cries are reprehensible and unacceptable, but not every wrongful conduct is a crime,” she said.

In a statement Tuesday, the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, said that he was appalled by the decision.

“Unfortunately, extreme anti-Semitic chants like those in Poznan are regularly heard in many European stadiums, including in England and Holland, and the reaction of the authorities is minimal,” Kantor said, adding that the Poland case and others “demonstrate that anti-Semitism has become the last acceptable prejudice in football.”

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, urged the Polish government to intervene and overturn the municipal prosecutor’s decision.

“Responsible government officials must rectify this absurd decision and ensure that those who chose to insult the memory of the victims of the Holocaust are held responsible for their pernicious and illegal actions,” he said in a statement.

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