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Front page in Polish paper: ‘How to spot a Jew’

In a 2017 photo, barriers are seen in front of the Sejm building in Warsaw. (Radek Pietruszka/European Pressphoto Agency)

A Polish-language weekly, Only Poland, was reportedly spotted at Poland’s Parliament on Wednesday with a front-page offering to inform readers “How to spot a Jew.”

Listed were markers such as “Names, anthropological features, expressions, appearances, character traits, methods of operation” and “disinformation activities.”

The list of supposedly Jewish traits was accompanied on the front page by a headline reading “Attack on Poland at a conference in Paris,” a reference to a Holocaust conference held in Paris last month. The article ran with a photo of Jan Gross, the Polish and Jewish Princeton scholar who wrote “Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” the seminal text on a massacre of the Jewish people of Jedwabne by their non-Jewish neighbors during the Nazi occupation in Poland. In 1996, Gross was the recipient of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland; in 2016, the ruling party, Law and Justice, considered stripping him of the award.

Gross did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“'How to spot a Jew’ is particularly upsetting and awful,” Jonathan Ornstein, director of Krakow’s Jewish Community Center, told The Washington Post. “I don’t think it necessarily represents mainstream Polish thinking at all. It’s an extreme publication, an extreme far right publication.”

“It’s a completely marginal paper. Doesn’t make it right, doesn’t make it less ugly, but it’s a completely marginal paper,” echoed Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich.

“The concern is that you want to hear from mainstream politicians [who are] condemning and saying, this doesn’t have a place in Poland,” Schudrich said. “This happened yesterday. We need a little bit of time to see how Polish officials will react.”

On Thursday, Andrzej Duda, president of Poland, said in a statement, “Situations such as this publication are absolutely marginal in Poland. Nonetheless each and every one of them deserves condemnation, including the one in question.”

Andrzej Grzegrzolka, director of the information center of the Polish Parliament, or Sejm, initially said that since the paper was being sold in kiosks, the responsibility for regulating sales did not fall on the information center. He later relented and said the information center would request that Only Poland be removed from the set of periodicals delivered to the Parliament.

“I think that, because of the particular history here in Poland, things like [the Polish paper] always get magnified,” said Ornstein.

Poland’s collective historical memory over treatment of Jewish people and Polish-Jewish relations have been fraught issues in the past few years.

In 2018, the Polish government backed a law that made it punishable by jail time to refer to Poles as complicit in Nazi atrocities, sparking an international outcry, largely from Israeli and U.S. lawmakers. The law was later watered down, removing the prison terms.

Then last month, Polish-Israeli relations were tested again when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was misquoted on his return from a Middle East summit in Poland as saying that “the Poles” collaborated with Nazis during World War II. The paper that quoted him, the Jerusalem Post, later added a correction to make clear that Netanyahu meant to say “Poles,” not “the Poles.”

But then Israel Katz, on his first day as Israel’s acting foreign minister, reiterated that Poles collaborated with Nazis during World War II and quoted former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir by saying that Poles “sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.” Poland pulled out of a summit between Israel and the Visegrad Four countries (the other three being the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia), and the summit was replaced with bilateral meetings between Israel and the other three.


Poland's ruling party considered stripping Jan Gross of his award in 2016, not, as originally stated, in 2012.