According to the Hate Crime Report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in 2015, the latest year for which data were available, the Ministry of Interior recorded 50 anti-Semitic hate crimes and incidents compared to 39 in 2014, 42 anti-Muslim hate crimes, and 12 anti-Christian hate crimes compared to 14 in 2014. In 2015, the government recorded 44 incidents of vandalism against Jewish sites, 27 against Muslim sites, and 12 against Christian and other religious sites. The national prosecutor’s office reported that in the first six months of 2016, it investigated 102 hate crimes targeting Jewish persons, compared to 142 cases during the same period in 2015, 250 hate crimes against Muslims (69 in the same period in 2015), and 23 against Christians (22 in the same period in 2015).
On June 26, approximately 20 people attempted to disrupt a religious procession of Greek Catholic and Orthodox Church members marching from a local cathedral to a military cemetery to commemorate Ukrainian soldiers who fought for the country in 1918-1920. On June 27, police charged 20 people with violating the right to public religious practice, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. On December 16, the Przemysl local prosecutor’s office indicted 19 persons for malicious disruption of the public performance of a religious act by Greek Catholic Church members. The accused could face a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment.
On April 2, approximately a dozen women disrupted a Catholic Mass during the reading of a bishops’ letter calling for a total ban on abortion.
A Pew Research Center survey released in July found 66 percent of the population had negative views about Muslims, up from 56 percent the previous year. The poll found 24 percent of respondents held negative views of Jews.
On August 19, 50 Lodz Widzew sports club soccer fans held a banner over a bridge at a train station in Lodz that read, “19.08., today the Jews got a name. Let them burn,” followed by an obscenity. The fans then burned three Jewish effigies hanging from the bridge. Authorities were investigating but, by year’s end, had taken no action against any of the fans involved.
Between January and April there were at least five anti-immigrant marches, which involved anti-Muslim slogans and banners as well as anti-Semitic messaging, organized by various groups, including the ONR and the National Movement, a bloc of several members of parliament. The marches occurred in several towns, including Bialystok, Gora Kalwaria, Biala Podlaska, Warsaw, and Lodz. The number of participants ranged between several dozen and several hundred, and up to 1,000 in Warsaw. Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.
On September 28, the Wroclaw local court began the trial of the man who burned an effigy of an Orthodox Jew during a November 2015 anti-immigrant march in Wroclaw. He was charged with inciting public hatred on religious grounds. On November 21 the court sentenced the man to 10 months’ imprisonment despite the prosecutor’s request for 10 months of community service. At the end of December, the sentence was under appeal.
In June the Wroclaw prosecutor’s office indicted ONR Lower Silesia branch chief Justyna Helcyk for inciting hatred against Muslims and racial minorities during her speech at the ONR’s September 2015 “In Defense of Christian Europe” demonstration in Wroclaw. Prosecutors argued Helcyk’s speech encouraged religious and racially motivated hatred against Muslims and racial minorities.
On February 17, Radio Maryja commentator Stanislaw Michalkiewicz stated, “the Jewish lobby wants to steal 65 billion dollars from Poland” during a broadcast. The National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council sent a letter on July 7 to the head of the Catholic Redemptorist Order in Warsaw, which owned Radio Maryja, criticizing Radio Maryja for broadcasting anti-Semitic remarks, and requested the radio station stop promoting anti-Semitic and discriminatory content. Michalkiewicz continued to broadcast anti-Semitic remarks. On October 20, for example, he stated, “today the mischievous Jews understood what it is about and they transformed themselves into liberals.”
In February the magazine wSieci published an issue with a cover displaying the hands and arms of three dark-skinned men groping a blonde woman wrapped in a European Union flag. The caption read “Islamic rape of Europe.” The cover article cited a series of sexual assaults on hundreds of women in Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve, 2015. Critics condemned the cover on social media and a number of international newspapers, such as The Washington Post and the UK’s The Guardian, called it “deeply provocative” and “highly inflammatory.” The NGO Carnegie Europe said the cover was “symptomatic of the radicalization of the Polish public debate during the months of the refugee crisis.”
Groups such as All-Polish Youth, National Rebirth of Poland, Red Watch, and Blood and Honor continued to espouse anti-Semitic views, but authorities were not able to link any of them to specific incidents of violence or vandalism. On April 16, ONR reportedly marched through Bialystok city center shouting, “Zionists will be hanging from the trees instead of leaves.” On September 28, the Bialystok prosecutor’s office announced it had discontinued its investigation into the incident, stating video recordings did not confirm the chants were shouted during the demonstration.
In March The New York Times reported some native Muslim Tatars said they felt threatened by anti-Muslim sentiment toward immigrants and when politicians painted Islam as a threat to the country. According to the report, the Tatars said they also felt threatened by the increasing foreign Muslim population. It cited Dzemil Gembicki, caretaker of the Tatar mosque in Kruszyniany, who said, “We are afraid that the huge group of Muslims from other places may cause us to lose the traditions of Polish Tatars.” Tomasz Miskiewicz, the Mufti of Poland and a Lipka Tatar, said, “Poland is not ready for immigrants.
The Polish Council of Christians and Jews continued regularly to organize conferences and ceremonies to encourage tolerance and understanding, as did a bilateral commission established by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In March the town of Gniezno hosted the 10th Gneiezno convention bringing together approximately 500 international and national religious leaders, politicians, academics, and representatives of various Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities.
On January 17, the Catholic Church celebrated the 19th annual Day of Judaism, which featured numerous events throughout the country, including meetings, lectures at schools, film screenings, and exhibitions. The main celebrations started with a prayer by Christians and Jews at the symbolic grave of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher in the Torun Jewish Cemetery, over which Bishop Andrzej Suski from Torun Bishopric and Bishop Mieczyslaw Cislo, the Chairman of the Polish Episcopate Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, and the country’s Chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich, presided.
The Polish Ecumenical Council, which included seven of the largest Christian denominations outside of the Roman Catholic Church, hosted conferences and interfaith dialogue. In December the council organized an international ecumenical conference centered on the “task of churches” in refugee reconciliation in Europe, which included religious leaders from Ukraine, Belarus, Germany, and Poland. On September 21, President of the Polish Ecumenical Council Bishop Jerzy Sameid signed an appeal for “peace in the world, peace independent of views, origin, or religion,” together with representatives from Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish religious groups, as well as other Christian groups outside of the council.
On January 26, the Catholic Church celebrated the 16th annual Day of Islam to promote peace among religious groups. The event titled “Christian and Muslims United against Violence on Religious Grounds” included lectures, readings from the Bible and the Quran, and prayers. The Chair of the Polish Episcopate Committee for Dialogue with Non-Christian Religions Bishop Romuald Kaminski, Warsaw-Praga Archbishop Henryk Hoser, and the Muslim Religious Union President Mufti Tomasz Misiewicz all attended the event.
In January Holocaust survivors, politicians, and religious leaders gathered to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.
On April 12, Jewish student organization Hillel International announced the opening of its first branch in the country in Warsaw. On June 7, Jewish advocacy organization American Jewish Committee announced it would open a new Central European headquarters in Warsaw.
There were incidents of vandalism targeting property associated with Catholic and Jewish institutions. In February unknown perpetrators destroyed more than 10 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in Gdansk. In April a regional prosecutor obtained an indictment against two individuals who destroyed 24 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in the town of Bielsko-Biala in November 2015.
In February three teenagers damaged several sculptures at a Roman Catholic church in Zabrze and attempted to set a fire inside the building. In June the Lipsko local court sentenced an 18-year-old man to one year’s imprisonment (suspended for three years) for vandalizing a Roman Catholic church in Ilza in June 2015.
In February, Grodzisk Mazowiecki municipal authorities took steps to protect a historic Jewish cemetery by signing a land lease agreement with the property owners, Futura G.M., preventing the company from developing a residential complex on the land. Local authorities stated they intend to restore and protect the cemetery to “guarantee respect for those buried there.”
A public library in Katowice held a one-day “Human Library” project in December where a diverse group of volunteers, including an imam, told their stories to individuals who could “borrow” them like books in order to encourage religious tolerance, among other topics. The imam told a media source that he “hopes that the people who [he] met changed some of their negative opinions about Islam and other cultures.”