Polish Far-Right Politicians Put Kippah on Official's Head During Holocaust Debate, Say Ministers 'Kneel Before the Jews'

Kippah far-right Poland anti-semitism debate
A man wears a kippah during a protest against anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Community House in Berlin, Germany, on April 25, 2018. Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Two far-right lawmakers in Poland were branded anti-Semitic and racist after they placed a kippah on the head of a state official and accused the government of selling the country to Jews.

The incident occurred when Konrad Berkowicz and Dawid Lewick, both members of the far-right Confederation political alliance, were in debate with Anne Krupka, a state secretary for sports and culture, and a lawmaker for the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS)—on Saturday, The Times of Israel reported.

The politicians were arguing over proposed restitution for Jewish Holocaust victims and their families, whose property was stolen during the genocide of more than 70 years ago. Saturday's debate was held in the southern city of Kielce, where an infamous anti-Semitic pogrom took place in 1946.

During the event, Lewicki—whose party uses the slogan "Poland, not Polin," a reference to the country's name in Hebrew—put a kippah on the table in front of Krupka, claiming the cap "is the symbol of Law and Justice. They kneel before the Jews, they sell the country for $300 billion," The Times of Israel reported.

Krupka threw the cap off the table but later when she stood up to speak, Berkowicz held the kippah behind her head without her noticing.

Poland's Ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski—who was attacked in what appeared to be a racist incident in Tel Aviv last week—condemned the behavior of the Confederation coalition members on Twitter. "All expressions of racially motivated hatred are unacceptable," he wrote.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said their actions were not even worthy of comment. "This a fringe racist party that isn't even worthy of responding to," he said.

The debate over Holocaust restitution was a divisive one in Poland, with the right-wing PiS insisting the matter was closed, and nationalist parties arguing that paying compensation would be too great a burden on Poland's economy. Last weekend, thousands of nationalists took to the streets in the capital city of Warsaw to protest restitution.

The debate has even spread to the Polish diaspora population in the U.S., after legislation was signed by President Donald Trump encouraging compensation for Holocaust victims. The law calls for the return of property "wrongfully seized or transferred" or "the provision of comparable substitute property or the payment of equitable compensation" for Holocaust survivors and the families of victims.

Also on Saturday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that PiS "would not consent" to Holocaust restitution demands, vowing instead to "defend Poland." The prime minister claimed that such compensation would violate international law "and would also be a posthumous victory for Hitler, which is why we will never allow it."

Relations between Israel and Poland became frayed over the past year or so, as a result of Warsaw's resistance to restitution and a new law criminalizing any suggestion of Polish complicity in the Holocaust. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the PiS government of "distorting the truth" and "rewriting history" with the law.

Six million Jews were among the victims of the World War II-era genocide. Perpetrated by Adolf Hitler's Nazi government and its allies, the Holocaust was thought to have claimed more than 17 million lives in total.

The death rate for Poles of all ethnic groups was especially high. In Poland, as in all other nations under Nazi occupation, historians found evidence of anti-Semitic collaboration between Poles and the occupying Nazis. However, Polish resistance groups were also among some of the most celebrated anti-Nazi partisans of the entire war.