'Jew, you cruel man. For offending God, you'll be punished'

Polish museum scraps Christian children’s show featuring threats to beat Jews

Museum of Krakow had been showing a nativity scene production that berated Jews for being ‘ashamed of the Messiah’

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

A puppet represents an Orthodox Jew, left, in a video of a nativity scene that the Museum of Krakow in Poland pulled offline in April 2023. (Museum of Krakow)
A puppet represents an Orthodox Jew, left, in a video of a nativity scene that the Museum of Krakow in Poland pulled offline in April 2023. (Museum of Krakow)

KRAKOW, Poland – This city’s foremost historical museum is facing calls for an external review after it showcased a play that contained references to beating up Jews.

The appeal to Mayor Jacek Majchrowski to scrutinize the Museum of Krakow came on Tuesday, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, from FestivALT, a Krakow-based organization that produces Jewish arts and activism events, and 11 other Jewish groups along with two prominent rabbis.

Earlier this year, the museum posted on its YouTube channel and included in an exhibition intended for children a recording of a play by the Malik family, which is well-known in Krakow for its nativity scene productions. The museum removed the video, which it had featured to celebrate the local nativity scene heritage, this month following an internal review.

The video, which FestivALT’s founder said had been viewed by thousands of people, shows the actors singing about Jews at least 30 times. Some of the mentions are in a violent or negative context. The show is centered around a puppet theater in which one figure appears to be an Orthodox Jew with sidelocks. Another, holding a stick, wears what resembles traditional Polish garb.

As a puppeteer animates the figures, actors from the Malik family troupe sing a duet by the two puppets. The voice of the character holding a stick sings: “Jews! Jews! I will teach you, I will teach you. How I will thrash you from behind, how I will thrash you in front with this stick.”

Earlier, the stick-wielding puppet berates the Jewish one for failing to recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah. “Jews! Jews! Well, you see clearly, you see clearly. And why, and why are you ashamed of the Messiah?” sings the actor.

Later in the same show, a blond puppet tells the same Jewish one: “Come on, Jew, enough of this. I’ll tell you something new. Did you know that we have a new Messiah?”

The Jewish figure then asks: “Oh, what will I get out of this?” and the blond one replies: “Oh Jew, you cruel man. For offending God, you will be punished by the power of the devil. Is there anything that you will not do to yourself out of your lack of faith? You will know the awesome power of the hellish devil.”

That the video could be incorporated into the materials and an exhibition of the prestigious municipal museum shows a lack of awareness to antisemitism that must be addressed, according to the appeal to the mayor. It was cosigned by the Central Europe office of the American Jewish Committee; the main Jewish community centers of Warsaw and Krakow; Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich; and Eliezer Gurary, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s top emissary in Krakow.

“Events and activities of Krakow cultural institutions created a space for the portrayal of Jews in a stereotypical, negative manner, as well as the portrayal and justification of violence against Jews,” the letter said, adding that the fact that the target audience was children made the Museum of Krakow situation especially outrageous.

The letter also noted what the authors described as progress toward greater awareness to antisemitism, such as city authorities’ condemnation in 2021 of the sale of figurines and pictures of Orthodox Jews, which some Poles and Ukrainians like to collect as good luck charms. But the Museum of Krakow incident shows more work needs to be done, the authors of the letter said.

“We suggest establishing a team of experts to represent minority groups and assist community institutions in developing an open attitude,” the authors wrote.

The mayor’s office did not immediately reply to the letter by the Jewish groups, or to The Times of Israel’s request for comment.

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