An election debate in the Polish city of Kielce on Saturday descended into a display of anti-Semitism and skullcap-throwing, as candidates sparred over restitution to Jewish Holocaust victims.
During the debate, Dawid Lewicki, a candidate for the far-right Confederation political alliance, stuck a kippah in front of a candidate from the ruling Law and Justice party and said, “This is the symbol of Law and Justice. They kneel before the Jews, they sell the country for $300 billion,” according to Polish press reports.
The Law and Justice candidate, Anne Krupka, then threw the skullcap off the table.
Later, when she got up to speak, a video showed Konrad Berkowicz, another Confederation official, picking up the kippah and holding it above her head.
Poland’s Ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski condemned the incident in a tweet on Sunday, saying that “all expressions of racially motivated hatred are unacceptable.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, however, said it was not worthy of comment.
“This a fringe racist party that isn’t even worthy of responding to,” he said.
Konrad Berkowicz z Konfederacji, a pani z Prawa i Sprawiedliwości.
Przyszli koalicjanci. ????????
Mówiłem, że koalicja to wrzutka PiSu, żeby suweren uwierzyl w koalicje i glosowal na PiS. pic.twitter.com/X3FFAQch4O
— Ken (@KenLewak) May 19, 2019
The debate over Holocaust restitution in Poland has surfaced in election debates ahead of EU vote and the parliamentary elections later this year. A 2018 law signed by US President Donald Trump, designed to encourage the restoration of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust, has drawn criticism from Poland’s right-wing government, which insists the matter is closed.
Nationalist groups have also opposed the law, arguing that paying compensation would ruin Poland’s economy. Last Saturday, thousands of Polish nationalists rallied against the measure in Warsaw, in what was described as one of the largest anti-Jewish street demonstrations in recent times.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki echoed the feelings of the protesters at a campaign rally later that day, saying it was Poles who deserved compensation for World War II.
Last Monday, Poland canceled a visit by Israeli officials, whom they said intended to raise the issue Holocaust restitution during the scheduled bilateral talks.
A day later, a 65-year-old Israeli man spit on the Polish ambassador in Tel Aviv, in what Warsaw said appeared to be an “anti-Polish act of hatred.”
At a Saturday campaign rally in Lodz, Morawiecki doubled down on his insistence that his Law & Justice party “would not consent” to claims of Holocaust restitution, telling voters “We will defend Poland.”
Morawiecki said paying restitution “violates international law and would also be a posthumous victory for Hitler, which is why we will never allow it.”
Last year, Warsaw passed a law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German war crimes.
The move sparked an outcry from Israel, which saw it as an attempt to ban testimonials on Polish crimes against Jews.
In response, Warsaw amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.
In February, Foreign Minister Israel Katz drew Poland’s ire by quoting late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir saying “Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”
In April, the World Jewish Congress condemned a Polish town, after reports that residents had burned in effigy “made to look like a stereotypical Jew” in a revival of an old Easter tradition.
AFP contributed to this report.