Jewish Journal

Anti-Semitism in a familiar place: Poland

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 12, 2007 | 3:34 pm

Last month, my colleague, Jane Ulman, reported on the rebirth of Jewish life in Poland, the place to where 60 percent of all Jews can trace their ancestry, the place where 90 percent of the country’s 3.3 million Jews had been murdered in little more than a year. Poland was making a comeback.

Many Jews still view Poland as the land of pogroms, persecution and prejudice; a terminally anti-Semitic and blood-drenched country where 3 million Jews were mercilessly murdered during World War II; a land dotted with death camps, desecrated cemeteries and deserted synagogues. What most Jews don’t know is that Poland has changed radically over the past couple of decades, and these days, it is reaching out to Israel and to Jews —and not just socially, either. ...

“Poland is the most pro-Israeli country in the world,” said Jaroslaw Nowak, deputy to Lodz Mayor Kropiwnicki in charge of relations with Israel and the Diaspora.

But Radio Maryja head Father Tadeusz Rydzyk’s recent rant seems to be serving as a setback. The Catholic priest, according to the Jerusalem Post, “accused the Jews of greed in a potential government compensation deal on confiscated property, and denounced Polish President Lech Kaczynski as a ‘fraudster who is in the pockets of the Jewish lobby.’”

The ADL obviously branded Rydzyk an anti-Semite. Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said: “He is sort of a Goebbels with a collar.”

But then Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, snapped back at Hier.

“If Rydzyk is Goebels, who is Hitler? Does Rabbi Hier really believe that the goal of the Catholic Church is to rid the world of Jews? Over one million Poles were murdered by the Nazis along with three million Jews. The analogy is uncalled for and the rabbi owes an apology for having made it for many of the same reason that he demanded one from Rydzyk.”

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