WARSAW: Thousands of Polish nationalists marched to the US embassy in Warsaw, protesting that the US is putting pressure on Poland to compensate Jews whose families lost property during the Holocaust.
The protest took place on Saturday amid a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic hate speech in public life in Poland and it appeared to be one of the largest anti-Jewish street demonstrations in recent times. It also comes as far-right groups are gaining in popularity, pressuring the conservative government to move further to the right.
Protesters, including far-right groups and their supporters, say the US has no right to interfere in Polish affairs and that the US government is putting "Jewish interests" over the interests of Poland.
Polish nationalists march on the US Embassy, in Warsaw, to protest a push for Poland to compensate Jews whose families lost property during the Holocaust.
Poland was a major victim of Nazi Germany during World War II and those protesting say it is not fair to ask Poland to compensate Jewish victims when Poland has never received adequate compensation from Germany.
Among those far-right politicians who led the march were Janusz Korwin-Mikke and Grzegorz Braun, who have joined forces in a far-right coalition standing in the elections to the European Parliament later this month. Stopping Jewish restitution claims has been one of their key priorities, along with fighting what they call pro-LGBT "propaganda." The movement is polling well with young Polish men.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki echoed the feelings of the protesters at a campaign rally on Saturday, saying that it is Poles who deserve compensation.
Poland was the heartland of European Jewish life before the Holocaust, with most of the 3.3 million Polish Jews murdered by occupying Nazi German forces. Christian Poles were also targeted by the Germans, killed in massacres and in concentration camps.
Many Poles to this day have a feeling that their suffering has not been adequately acknowledged by the world, while that of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust has, creating what has often been called a "competition of victimhood".
Many of the properties of both Jews and non-Jews were destroyed during the war or were looted and later nationalised by the communist regime that followed.
The protests in Warsaw target US law S. 447, also known as the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (or JUST) Act. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump last year and requires the State Department to report to Congress on the state of restitution of property stolen in the Holocaust in dozens of countries.
Protesters said paying compensation would ruin Poland's economy.
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