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article imagePoland's leader condemns anti-Semitism, praises Israel

By AFP     Sep 18, 2017 in World

The powerful head of Poland's governing right-wing party denounced anti-Semitism and hailed Israel at a ceremony Monday honouring Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, widely regarded as Poland's de facto decision-maker, made the comment after the European Jewish Congress (EJC) voiced "grave concerns" over an increase in anti-Semitic acts under the government of Kaczynski's Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Condemning anti-Semitism as being "very dangerous", Kaczynski called Israel "a great state".

"We see the proof somewhere above us where there is a supreme force, a divine force, which decides everything and without it, Israel could not exist, it is a kind of miracle of our time," added Kaczynski, a devout Catholic.

EJC President Moshe Kantor warned in late August that "there has been a distinct normalisation of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia in Poland recently" and called on the PiS government to "stem this hate" and act forcefully against it.

The group cited a proliferation of "fascist slogans" and unsettling remarks on social media and television, as well as the display of flags of the nationalist ONR group at state ceremonies.

The EJC added that it had been around a year since a senior Polish minister met with leaders of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, which represents the fewer than 10,000 people who belong to Jewish organisations in the country of 38 million people.

Kaczynski met with some members of Poland's small Jewish community at Monday's awards ceremony, but several Jewish organisations in Poland insisted they did not represent the entire community.

Organising the ceremony, the From the Depths group, which seeks out Poles who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis, said its new "Zabinski Prize" is meant to honour those who "were not recognized as Righteous among the nations of the world" by Israel's Yad Vashem Institute.

The award bears the name of the war-time director of the Warsaw Zoo, who together with his wife Antonina hid nearly 300 Jews and resistance fighters from the Nazis at the zoo.

British Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, who was among the first recipients, evoked the memory of his great-uncle Jan, his wife and daughter, shot by the Germans who discovered Jews hidden on their farm.

Nuns from the Franciscan Order of the Family of Mary also received the prize for saving some 750 Jews, both children and adults, hidden in their convents.

Poland was once home to Europe's largest Jewish population, numbering around three million people, or 10 percent of the Polish population in 1939.

But only about 300,000 survived World War II after Nazi Germany occupied Poland and set up the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau on its territory.

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