Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Pope and Radio Maryja

Benedict tells ultra-catholic broadcasters: ‘lay off the politics’. The highlight of the pilgrimage will be tomorrow when the Pontiff makes a highly symbolic visit to Auschwitz. Radio Maryja won't be pleased.

Pope Benedict has been getting good crowds for his first visit to Poland since taking over the pontificate but nowhere near as good as what John Paul II could muster. In Pilsudski Square in Warsaw yesterday about 250,000 turned out (in the pouring rain) for mass and homilies. Whenever JP II turned up in the same place, however, he could expect around one million.

Still, half way through the four-day pilgrimage, attended by over 4,000 accredited journalists, it can be said that the visit has already been a success.

Pope Benedict is aiming to do three things with the trip:

1) To try and fill the very large shoes of John Paul II and make sure that Poland remains the most Catholic country in Europe.

2) To come down hard on the anti-Semitic and politically motivated Radio Maryja. Benedict has said on this trip: “The priest’s work is to know humanity and God, not politics” – making it clear that the close involvement between Radio Maryja and the current Polish government must end.

3) To visit the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz as part of the Vatican’s attempt to bridge the divide between Judaism and Polish Catholicism.

Pope Benedict also made the comment that the “aggressive pose of attacking behavior of previous generations must stop”, or words to that effect. Many have interpreted this as to mean Germans; but many more think that he is referring to the present governments attack on communists and liberals in Poland (the now infamous uklad).

Anti-Semitism in Poland and the rest of Europe

There has been a bit of a hot discussion on this blog as to the extent of anti-Semitism in Poland and other European countries. So, just to put the record straight, here are the results of an international survey of 12 countries in Europe by the Anti Defamation League on attitudes to Jewish people.

In responding "probably true" to the statement, "Jews have too much power in the business world," the 2005 survey found:

Hungary – 55%
Spain – 45%, down from 47%
Poland – 43%
The United Kingdom – 14% down from 20%

In responding "probably true" to the statement "Jews have too much power in international financial markets," the survey found:

Hungary – 55%
Spain – 54%, up from 53%
Poland – 43%
The United Kingdom – 16% down from 18%

You can read the whole report yourself here

While it has been noted that anti-Semitism is on the wane in Poland (and about bloody time too) with 43% of Poles still apparently believing nonsense of international Jewish conspiracies there is still lots of work to do here, to say the least.

For more on Pope Benedict's trip to Poland check out


sonia said...


If John Paul II wasn't able to eradicate anti-semitism in Poland, the Panzer Pope won't be able neither...

Btw, you’ve been tagged

Agnes said...


Say "at least 55% in Hungary". Radio Marya is called "Vasarnapi Ujsag" in Hungary, and my favorite, Orban, declared that VU was his favorite ever. The VU and Magyar Demokrata (the favorite press organ of the FIDESZ) praised Hitler openly, among other things. Not even the Pope, not even God will ever stop this, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

He is surely to be commended for his criticism of the disgraceful Radio Maria.


Anonymous said...

with 43% of Poles still apparently believing nonsense of international Jewish conspiracies there is still lots of work to do here, to say the least.

Indeed conspiracy nonsenses are hard to eradicate. Another very popular recently is the one described in the 'Da Vinci Code'.
In fact, it is hard not to see parallels between the anti-semitic nonsense called 'The Protocols of Elders of Zion' or something like that and the 'Da Vinci Code'. I wonder if believing the latter consipiracy makes you anti-catholic and what the break-out by nations looks like.


While it has been noted that anti-Semitism is on the wane in Poland (and about bloody time too)

It is always interesting to hear about the intensity of Polish anti semitizm as opposed to the Jewish-friendly western europe. How come then that before the Germans came and murdered them, Poland had the by-order-of-magnitude largest Jewish-Polish population than any other country (perhaps except the USA). Some call it voting by feet.

I feel that it is not an accident that the numbers of nonsense-believers are relatively large for countries that have been until recently non-democratic (Spain, Hungary, Poland) and the anti-semitic card was a convenient indoctrination card to play by the rulers. In Poland the Moscow-controlled 'anti-zionist' propaganda was very intensive and quite effective after 1968 and it will take time to recover from.

In the long run, Poland had have and will be having a very positive record in relation to Jews.

sonia said...

In Poland the Moscow-controlled 'anti-zionist' propaganda was very intensive and quite effective after 1968 and it will take time to recover from.

I don't agree. The fact that the Communists were spreading anti-semitic propaganda after 1968 probably IMPROVED the image of Jews among Poles...

Anonymous said...

Romerican, your hopes of this topic approaching "dead horse status" thankfully haven't been fullfilled and this subject certainly deserves more attention and opinion from both Jews and non-Jews living in Europe and abroad.

Thus, I will continue by comparison of British and Polish anti-semitism. This is appropriate because I live in Poland as Pole of Jewish descent, and Beatroot is from the UK. This diversity of opinion is healthy and should be expanded upon.

The ADL's report on anti-semitism represent the "thoughts and opinions" (not real incidents or actions against the Jewish community) of a statistical sample of participants in each country interviewed. Anti-semitism was thus confined in definition to a series of 'several' questions which are assumed to be anti-semitic in nature. Thus, their analysis is an 'opinionated' one, and not an 'incident related' survey. A more serious threat to Jews and myself personally are the actual occurrences of physical violence against Jews and Jewish property such as attacks, letters, boycotts, slander, and the desecration of Jewish property.
Living in Poland, I have have never witnessed or been personally threatened, either physically or orally by any Polish citizen or person in Poland. There is tasteless graffiti attacking both Jews and Catholics, so that must be mentioned. Radio Maryja did offend me with their comment on the 'holocaust industry'. However, I must admit, this comment has also been made by the controversial Jewish-American professor Norman Finkelstein in every one of his lectures, and he has even written a pathetic book on the subject entitled The Holocaust Industry. So, we have critics in our own Jewish religious circle as well as outside of it and this poses a unique problem. What is the Jewish community to do, accuse Finkelstein, who's parents survived the holocaust, as being 'anti-semitic'?

As Beatroot and myself has shown, there are several conclusions as to the level of anti-semitism that exists in the UK and Poland. As presented to you in my previous commentary, the 'physical, oral, and slanderous' form of anti-Jewish sentiment in the UK heavily outweighs (by over 300 to 400%) of that in Poland as shown by the CST's statistics on their website. On the other hand, the ADL concludes that anti-Jewish 'opinion' is greater in Poland than it is in the UK. So, which analysis of European anti-semitism is correct?

As a graduate from a prominent university in the UK, I must present to the readers of this forum the current atmosphere of anti-semitism that is contaminating not only British public life, but university life as well. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who served as rabbi at Oxford University for 11 years, puts this troubling dilemma into an accurate perspective. Both on 'WorldnetDaily' and his personal website, he states in the article 'The British academic rabble and the boycott of Israel'

The decision by the British Association of University Teachers to boycott two Israeli universities did not come as any great shock to me. In the 11 years I served as rabbi at Oxford University, and running an organization that also included a large branch at Cambridge, witnessing hatred of Israel at British universities was par for the course.

So why is Israel singled out for hatred and boycotts by the British, while brutal and oppressive Arab governments face no similar opposition? Simple. Israel is filled with Jews, the Arab countries are not. And now wholesale anti-Semitism has broken out in Britain over the last few years, the likes of which even I never witnessed in the 11 years that I lived there. From the mayor of London, who called a Jewish reporter he didn't like a Nazi concentration camp guard, to the explosion of violent attacks on Jewish citizens and institutions, to this boycott outrage against Israeli universities, the latent anti-Semitism that has always existed in Britain is beginning to surface.

Britain's attacks on Israel have nothing to do with a specific anti-Israel focus and have everything to do with good old-fashioned anti-Semitism. The country that was once the most enlightened in the world and gave civilization the idea of parliamentary democracy is now witnessing the steady rise of contemptible Jew-hatred.

I agree with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and have experienced such discrimination myself. The majority of hatred I witnessed in the UK came from educated white Caucasion British students and faculty, and not from Arabs or Muslims. You can't blame only uneducated skinheads for strong British anti-semitism. This disease has reached dangerous levels in the elite of Britain. I await your comments. Thanks.

Romerican, do you really enjoy wine? You are distant from my country, so I hope you enjoy travel.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beatroot said...

Warsaw police are looking for a young man accused of attacking the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich. The attack took place Saturday afternoon in downtown Warsaw.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons Israel gets singled out for boycotts is that it is a parliamentary democracy. To boycott, for example, Iranian scholars would be to punish them for their dictatorial government's policies -- policies in which they have little or no say. With democracy comes responsibility.

This applies across the board: if Poland had been a democracy when it invaded Czechoslovakia the burden of guilt on individual Poles of the time would be much greater.

beatroot said...

Boycotts against Isreal are just silly. There is one being mooted by some British university lecturers at the moment and its just a load of arse.

And we must remember that Isreal will not have sanctions made against it by anyone significant. The US is clear that the country is its little bit of turf in an otherwise hostile middle east and will continue to subsidise it until it stops being useful.

But I agree that Israel is democratic (if you are Jewish that is) and that is one of the many endearing things about it.

By the way, I spent half a year there once and completly and utterly love the place.

beatroot said...

Rivka quotes the rabbi: "Britain's attacks on Israel have nothing to do with a specific anti-Israel focus and have everything to do with good old-fashioned anti-Semitism."

Sorry, but I think that is just good old-fashioned bullshit.

Likening criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism is very annoying and stupid. It's the same as claiming that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

A critique of a nation's oppression of another people is not the same as racism, which presumes personal and cultural characteristics on the basis of a perceived 'race'.

As a graduate of a respected university in London myself :-))) I say to the Rabbi: "Don't be so paranoid and silly and get yourself a decent political analysis. You will not shut up criticism of Israel by using the cheap racism card.

Anonymous said...

Romerican, I must agree, the ADL's report is shallow when solely depending on an individual's "opinion" to deduce the level of anti-semitism in any given social structure. I also refuse to accept the type of questions they used for their analysis. Actual incident or occurrence should form the basis of any report, and not the assumption of one's opinion. The report by UK's 'CST' is more reliable, because it is based on fact, and not opinion.

Beatroot, that alleged attack on Rabbi Michael Schudrich is bad news indeed. He is a well respected person in our community. It strikes me odd that in the 5 years he has been in Warsaw, such an attack should take place. It is also an astonishing coincidence that it took place just as your blog was discussing the matter.

Now the significant question is, was it an anti-semitic act or not? Rabbi Schudrich hasn't categorized it as such. Here is a description of the attack by Rabbi Schudrich according to the Reuter's article Poland's Chief Rabbi Attacked on Warsaw Street.

``While I was walking in Warsaw, someone yelled 'Poland is for Poles','' Schudrich, a New Yorker who became chief rabbi of Warsaw in 2000 and of all Poland in 2004, told Reuters on Sunday.

``I went back and asked him why he said that and then he hit me and sprayed me with something like pepper gas.''

The proper way to investigate this matter is to ask the following questions. Did the offender who made the nationalistic comment say it specifically to Rabbi Schudrich, or was it just a public rant not aimed at anyone? Did he even know that Rabbi Schudrich was Jewish? Was the Rabbi in traditional Jewish garb, or wearing conservative civilian attire? Why did Rabbi Schudrich even approach the stranger that made the comment and ask him "why he said that" in the first place? Was the attacker even a Pole, or one of many foreigner's living in Warsaw, or a tourist visiting while the pope was in town? I ignore such ridiculous comments and would have just kept on walking instead of questioning somone unknown to me.

Most of our Jewish community have now been living in Poland peacefully and enjoying our life here amid a growing awareness and awakening of our Jewish culture. I only hope that as the authorities have suggested, G-d forbid, the act was not "a provocation meant to portray Poland as an anti-Semitic country".

What do you all think? Regardless of once such shameful act, it doesn't come anywhere near the high number of 'violent' anti-semitic incidents which occur in the United Kingdom or France.

beatroot said...

It is also an astonishing coincidence that it took place just as your blog was discussing the matter.

Rivka - calm down.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beatroot said...

But you are right...the problem with this discussion is a lack of definition of what actually constitutes 'anti-Semitism'.

Rivka has been concerntrating on acts of the state. In Poland there is no official anti-Semitism at all, so we can't pin that one of the country.

There has also been a low amount of physical attacks on Jews in Poland. I would argue that this is because the Jews that are left here are very integrated and not visible culturally. I say that because attacks on Africans is vastly underreported here and a significant problem for black people in Poland.

But where Poland is light years behind is on attitudes among the general populice about Jews and other people considered 'not like us'.

This is due, I think, to the monocultural nature of modern day Poland and how it missed out on the civil rights movements in the west starting in the 1960s. The commies have a lot to answer for there.

We are now seeing the start of these movements in Poland today - and this is a massive step forward and one which this blog activly supports.

michael farris said...

A few random observations.

IME experience most Polish people define anti-semitism as physical attacks (and support of same). Just thinking that Jewish people are out to control the world or that they have too much power or whatever isn't considered anti-semitic.

One great achievement of the anti-communist intellectuals was to shear away any intellectual veneer of support for anti-semitism. This means that those who publish or propogate anti-semitic views are viewed as bumpkins and or demented. Unfortunately, there's a pretty high percentage of unapologetic bumpkins in Poland. (by which I mean that to an unusual degree in Europe the urban working class is basically peasant in orientation and outlook).

Quick summary of standard Polish opinion (IME: ymmv) about Poland's Jewish heritage:
"Before WWII there were hardly any problems between Poles and Jews, the few problems that did exist were all the Jews' fault, of course."

Anonymous said...

Michael, you are making a very general statement about Polish-Jewish relations and basically applying a stereotype to the entire country of Poland. It doesn't bode well for any form of reconciliation between the two groups. Furthermore, you aren't providing any concrete sources for your allegations. It's only your opinion. Do you even live in Poland? Have you read the many opinions by Jews living in Poland today? I'm living proof. Please, visit, purchase Midrasz Magazine, and visit the Lauder Foundation if possible. Try to see that we have a flourishing community in Poland.

Beatroot, I was speaking about 'individual' and 'state sponsered' anti-semitic events, all types.
Within the Jewish community as well, a controverial debate exists on what actually consists of 'anti-semitism'. Your point is well taken.

I fully support what Jewish journalist Leslie Bunder once stated:

"While there may be some in the Jewish community who want to stay in the past, the vast majority want to move forward with the future. They have the ideas and enthusiasm to make things happen. They want other Jews to show support to projects that celebrate living Jewish Polish life.

And that for me is what Poland is today. A place where Jews are living and enjoying life. A place where they have come to terms with their past and are moving forward and a place where other Jews should visit and have an open mind.

It would be nice to meet in person and organize a live symposium on such a topic. What do you think?

P.S. - Beatroot, I'm always very calm. :-)

michael farris said...

Rivka, I've lived in Poland for over 10 years and am fluent in Polish (no Polish ancestory whatsoever that I'm aware of).

The idea that Polish people have a different definition of 'anti-semitic' and have a simplistic view of the past is the result of lots of conversations with lots of people, most of them pretty well educated. Other people may have different experiences, whatever.

The idea that the Polish working class urban population are closer to peasants in mentality and custom than is common in Europe is hardly new to me. I first came across it in an ethnographic article on food habits (written in Polish). But it's not original with me.

But, over all, I agree with you that things are much better now than even a few years ago. Outlets of antisemitic media are relatively few and alienate and/or disgust many/most Polish people (pretty much everyone with middle class background or ambitions). It's not perfect, but things are almost entirely moving in the right direction, which is a very good thing.

But ... the real problem in Central Europe (including most of the German cultural sphere) isn't anti-semitism per se, it's the desire for scapegoats when things go wrong (or right, for that matter). Fortunately, Jewish people are very unlikely to fulfill that role for those who want someone to blame their problems on.
In the modern Poland of today, immigrants from poor countries (Vietnamese, Arabs and Africans especially) and some social groups (gays and 'communists'*) are much more likely to fit the bill.

*they weren't and aren't communists in any real sense, but the Kaczynski government's desire for a witch hunt dovetails very closely with the desire of many for sometone to blame.

Anonymous said...

I think your view of the anti-Semitism in Poland is too simplistic. It's not so that there are just obsessed anti-Semites mumbling nonsense under their noses.

Note, for example, that the recent wave of attacks on Radio Marya came after Mr. Michalkiewicz referenced Filkenstein's book in his commentary that was broadcast there. Main issue raised was his allegation that an American Jewish organization seeks huge sums of money for from the current Polish state for the real estate and possessions left by the Jews murdered by Germans. He underlined that said organization has no relation whatsoever with the relatives or descendants of those murdered and in his opinion is probably looking just to extract money for their own, private benefit.

Interestingly, no one ever told that he was wrong or provided any rebuttal to the legal analysis that was part of his commentary. Having accidentally listened to it I was deeply shocked when the author was accused of being an anti-semite. Some even started calling for the Radio Maryia to be closed by the state - such calls coming from supposedly serious politicians raise questions about their commitment to upholding the freedom of the press in Poland.

I think part of the problem, right now, is that some Jewish politicians and clerics react to any criticism of any Jewish organization or the state of Israel itself by accusations of anti-semitism and not by discussing the issues. Some clearly think, that the Holocaust makes any kind of criticism of a particular Jewish organization, party, policy or Israel impossible. However, Jews, as any other nation in the world, are not all angels and are prone to err or do things others don't like. By censoring any such criticism and viciously attacking anyone who dares do disagree with some of their view many of the current Jewish leaders are, I'm afraid, building a foundation for the future, true anti-semitism.

sonia said...

Excellent discussion, very interesting

Likening criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism is very annoying and stupid. It's the same as claiming that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism

True, there is a HUGE difference between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism, but such simplifications are rampant everywhere. Example: many leftists immediately accuse the US of colonialism and imperialism every time Washington dares to criticize a Third World dictator for rigging an election or oppressing his own people.

As for anti-semitism, the problem is that this term isn’t specific enough, it seems to include everybody from people who despise Jews for allegedly being too weak, and those who fear them for allegedly being too powerful. Those aren’t the same people and to lump them all together isn’t very useful. A bleeding-heart leftist who believes that all Palestinians are being exterminated has nothing in common with a white supremacist who blames Jews for introducing ‘weak’ Christian and liberal values that allegedly glorify victims and denounce the conquerors. The former concentrate their criticism on Israeli Jews, the latter on Diaspora Jews. The tragedy of the Jewish people is that they constantly find themselves in the crossfire of this eternal dispute and end up being persecuted no matter what…

beatroot said...

It is a good discussion.

Anonymous!!! Are you suggesting that Radio Maryja and their guests are NOT anti-Semitic? That's a novel point of view and I would like to hear more about it. Maybe they have been grossly misrepresented in the media and should really be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Anonymous said...

Dera Beatroot,
Saying that one of the AIMS of the Pope to come over to Poland is to come hard on Radio Maryja is SICK. I bet if the Pope desires, he's got better tools than wishes. Then, the link you added is stupid too. The article is worthless. RGDS,
patrick, harvard

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