Rightist Party Whose Member Made Auschwitz Joke Wins Polish Elections

Results were 'a big disappointment to those who err on the side of tolerance in Poland.'

AP

 A Polish rightist party that stirred controversy with xenophobic remarks about Muslims and Jews by some of its representatives won the parliamentary election in Poland.

The Law and Justice party emerged as Poland’s largest with 39 percent of the vote, according to results published Monday.

Jan Gross, a Polish-born American Jewish historian and sociologist, told JTA the results were “a big disappointment to those who err on the side of tolerance in Poland,” and “risked entrenching the monolithic tendencies in Polish society, to the detriment of minorities.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a Law and Justice leader, said during the campaign that refugees from the Middle East were bringing diseases like cholera and dysentery to Europe. Many of the refugees are Muslims.

Janusz Kapuscinski, who represents the party on the municipal council of Poznan, earlier this month jokingly proposed to name a street leading to a garbage incinerator Auschwitz Street. His apparent reference to crematoria at the Nazi camp in southern Poland prompted a strong rebuke in the Polish media as well as from the head of the Poznan Jewish community, Alicja Kobus, who told the news website wyborcza.pl that she was shocked by his words.

Kukiz’15, a nationalist party, also made gains in the election, winning 9 percent of the vote, which analysts described as a massive victory for the right-wing bloc.

Piotr Kadlcik, a former president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, told JTA that he hoped the newly elected ruling party “will not forget the heritage of the late president Lech Kaczynski — a friend of the Jews and Israel,” and a former member of the Law and Justice party.