Poland / 06-05-2012
Before EURO 2012: BBC presents questions concerning Polish Antisemitism
"One cannot assess Poland through the prism of a few thousands idiots, who scrawl antisemitic slogans on walls. It has never been so good in this country", so believes Jonathan Ornstein, the director of the Jewish community's center in Kraków, to whom a BBC journalist directed questions concerning the stereotype of the Polish antisemite.
The staff of the British TV program "Panorama", broadcast by the BBC, is touring across Poland and Ukraine for two weeks now. And what's the reason for that? It's obviously due to the nearing European soccer championship. The journalists of the respected British TV network are examining what their compatriots that decide to travel to watch the championship will have to take into account. The said part of that TV program, which has been filmed, among other cities, in Kraków (but also in Łódź, Bydgoszcz, Warsaw and in several Ukranian cities) has not been prepared and performed yet, but it's already known that quite a bit of attention will be directed during the championship towards xenophobia at the Polish stadiums, particularly towards antisemitism.
"At the Bydgoszcz stadium, fans wished death on "(owners of) aquiline noses", and also provided us with information about a shop in Łódź that distributed stickers with the inscription "entrance prohibited for Jews". At Kraków, fans of another team denominate the other team's fans "Jews". Anyway, what it's all about?", asks a detached and disoriented Panorama editor.
Indeed. It's hard to be familiar with all this matter, to understand it. Also Mark Zilberstein, a journalism student at London's City University, of Polish origin, found this out, during his visit in Poland last year, and he time and again tried to direct the attention of the Gazeta's editorial board in Kraków towards antisemitic inscriptions scrawled on walls.
The "Panorama" journalists asked New York-born Jonathan Borenstein, the director of the Jewish Community Center in Kraków (JCC), about As Polish antisemitism, present also at the stadiums. But Burstein, who lives in Poland for a decade now, is not surprised to such an extent by the slogans written on walls as he was at the beginning of his stay in Poland. "During my first year in Poland I stayed in Łódź. "The wall slogans obviously shocked me", admits Mr. Borenstein during the BBC interview. "But it should be remembered that antisemitism affects only a small part of the Polish society. I am sure that this phenomenon is very painful and disturbing to most Poles. But it's surely impossible to assess Poland's situation basing on the behavioral features of a few thousands of idiots across the whole country, who scrawl antisemitic slogans on walls", he adds.
Positive aspects of the relationship Polish-Jewish relations can be perceived and observed, beyond that, within the wider framework. Director Borenstein tells during the interview with the British journalists that in fact Jews in Poland can nowadays few substantially more secure than in many other countries in Europe. "In Poland, it has never been better than it is today. Naturally, before the war, much more Jews lived here than today, but one cannot compare the feeling of security and society's acceptance of minorities nowadays to the situation that existed in those pre-WWII days.
However, if the situation is so good, then why the fans of different soccer clubs call each other "Jews"? "I think that the myth about the Jew as stranger has always persisted and survived in the Polish stereotypes", estimates director Borenstein. "Therefore, if a person wishes to point out that he does not identify himself with a team, he then denominates the opponent team's professional staff and fans "Jews". I don't justify such a behavior, but that's not classical antisemitism. Since no one means neither origin nor religion", he stresses.
The piece of the "Panorama" television program devoted to Poland and Ukraine during the course of the EURO 2012 championship, recorded, among other places, also in Kraków, will be broadcast on May 28th, on the BBC.