WARSAW – A municipal prosecutor in the Polish city of Poznan has concluded that chants by soccer fans that made reference to Jews going to the gas chambers were not anti-Semitic, and therefore did not provide grounds for the filing of criminal charges.
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The verbal taunts, in which the fans used language such as “Move on, Jews!” “Your home is at Auschwitz!” and “Send you to the gas [chamber]!”, were chanted by fans of local team Lech Poznan against the visiting side, Widzew Lodz.
Poland’s national prosecutor-general has required local prosecutors to investigate cases of possible racist incitement. In this instance, however, the local prosecutor concluded that because the incident occurred at a sporting event and the comments were only directed at the opposing team and not specifically at Jews, there were no grounds for prosecution.
The decision was condemned by Agnieszka Gliszczyńska-Grabiec, a spokeswoman for Open Poland – an organization that works to combat xenophobia and anti-Semitism. By this logic, she said, the prosecutor would only find indications of anti-Semitism “if bearded Jews wearing skullcaps and black coats were sitting in the stands.”
Lech Poznan’s owners have the authority to punish the fans in question by barring them from future games, but the club’s management chose not to take any action. “We neither defend the offenders nor will we act against them,” they said, adding that the club is neither the prosecutor’s office nor an independent tribunal.
Lech Poznan fans have made similar outbursts before. In two other incidents, the Polish soccer association imposed substantial fines on offending fans.
Speaking to journalists, Gliszczyńska-Grabiec made reference to an unrelated case in Lublin in which she claimed the prosecutor general had made light of acts directed against a resident of the city, Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, who has been heavily involved in perpetuating the memory of the town’s Jewish past.
Vandals recently broke windows at Pietrasiewicz’s apartment by throwing bricks with swastikas through them. In that case as well, however, the prosecutor found no proof of anti-Semitic motives because Pietrasiewicz said he is not Jewish.
In the Polish city of Bialystok, meanwhile, the local prosecutor refused to open criminal proceedings against individuals who were distributing posters containing swastikas, on the grounds that the Nazi cross was also a Hindu symbol for happiness.
“The [national] prosecutor general had promised to take resolute action against racist phenomena,” a front-page commentary in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza stated, “and he stressed that the absence of a vigorous response to offenses of this kind could inflict substantial damage upon society and the country. Today, these words sound like a joke. Xenophobia and anti-Semitism are fed by public apathy and inaction by the masses over enforcement of the law, as occurred [prior to the rise of the Nazis] in the Weimar Republic in Germany.”