Polish nationalists shouted “Death to the Jews” while burning a book representing a historic agreement protecting the rights of Polish Jews.
Wojciech Olszański, a far-right activist, doused a red-covered book meant to symbolize the Statute of Kalisz which was impaled on a sharp metal object in flammable liquid, and then set it on fire. The crowd which had gathered shouted, “Death to the Jews” and cheered while the book was set ablaze. Others chanted, “No to Polin, yes to Poland,” the Jerusalem Post reported. Polin is both the Hebrew-language name for Poland and the name of the main Jewish museum in Warsaw.
On Thursday, November 11, a rally was held in Kalisz, a city of about 100,000 inhabitants located 180 kilometers from Warsaw, where the book burning took place. The demonstration was part of a series of nationalist events on November 11, National Independence Day, commemorating Poland’s return to sovereignty in 1918.
The book burning was done to symbolize a destruction of the Kalisz Law, a document issued in 1260-1265 regulating the legal status of Jews living in Poland. The law granted some protection for Polish Jews by penalizing anyone perpetrating attacks on them, and served as the legal basis for non-Jewish-Jewish relations in Poland over the subsequent centuries.
“This is a scary and symbolically important event,” said Raphael Pankowski, leader of the Never Again in Poland anti-racism group, comparing the rally to the burning of books in Nazi Germany. The events took place just days after the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said Saturday he hoped that “the people who organized the shameful and scandalous assembly in Kalisz on November 11 will suffer legal consequences.”
“After monitoring anti-Semitism for more than 25 years, I have never seen anything like it,” Pankowski told the Jewish News Agency.
“These images send chills,” said Katharina von Schnurbein EU Coordinator for Combating Anti-Semitism.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid took to Twitter and welcomed the “unequivocal condemnation” by Polish authorities and said Jewish people “expect the Polish government to act uncompromisingly against those who took part in this shocking display of hate.”
“The horrific antiSemitic incident in Poland reminds every Jew in the world of the strength of hatred that exists in the world,” Lapid said.