Polish Philosopher Rejects Honorary Degree Over anti-Semitic Attacks

University of Lower Silesia rector calls Zygmunt Bauman’s refusal 'a capitulation to the extreme right.'

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Polish-British philosopher Zygmunt Bauman rejected an honorary doctorate from a Polish university because of anti-Semitic attacks against him on the Internet.

Bauman, who agreed in January to accept the degree from the University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw, asked the school in a letter to cancel the honor, according to the Gazeta Wyborcza.

Bauman, 87, lost his professorship at the University of Warsaw following a 1968 anti-Semitic campaign against him organized by the Communist Party of which he had been a member. He first immigrated to Israel, where he taught at Tel Aviv University, then moved to England to serve as the chair in sociology at the University of Leeds.

Following the announcement of the honorary doctorate at the University of Lower Silesia, Bauman was attacked in Internet forums and social media. Among the more mild anti-Semitic comments were “I cannot stand the Jewish Bolshevik,” “Death to the Zionist plague of mankind” and “Down with Judeo-Communism,” according to the Gazeta Wyborcza.

The ceremony was scheduled for October 24, and the university Senate had already passed a resolution approving the granting of the honor.

In his letter, Bauman said he based part of his decision on his desire not to harm the reputation of the university with the “unnecessary uproar,” according to the Gazeta Wyborcza.

University Rector Robert Barberry called Bauman’s rejection of the honorary doctorate “a capitulation to the extreme right.”

Zygmunt Bauman, pictured in 1998. Credit: AP

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