KRAKOW – Two legal decisions have caused outrage among Jewish organizations and anti-fascists in Poland.
In the first case, a district prosecutor in the northern city of Bialystok announced that he does not intend to open an investigation after swastikas were discovered painted on electrical transformers, despite complaints lodged by locals. The prosecutor explained his decision saying that in different parts of the world, for example in parts of Asia, the swastika is not necessarily associated with fascism or the Nazi movement.
“Currently, in European countries and in the US, the swastika is associated almost exclusively with Adolf Hitler and Nazism, but in Asia it is widely used as a symbol for happiness and prosperity. In this case, it is difficult to see a painted swastika as a symbol promoting fascism,” the district prosecutor said in his statement.
The prosecutor’s decision provoked outrage in the Jewish community in Poland and among local residents.
Rafal Gawel, director of a theater in Bialystok who runs the campaign “Paint over evil,” in which activists remove anti-Semitic and racist graffiti painted on the city’s walls, called the prosecutor’s decision “bizarre.”
Robert Tyszkiewicz, a deputy for the ruling Civic Platform party, also criticized the decision and called it “a joke.”
After the publication of the district prosecutor’s decision caused a storm in Poland, the case was transferred to the Bialystok’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office for reconsideration.
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that the decision not to open an investigation into the case was wrong.
“The claim that the swastika is not always associated with Nazism is not true. Placing such symbols in public places should be definitely regarded as promoting Nazism and fascism,” said Tadeusz Marek, Bilaystok’s chief prosecutor.
He announced that proceedings will start immediately.
In another decision dubbed by many in Poland as “strange,” a court in the southern city of Chorzow released Piotr P., a local who walked around the city wearing a T-shirt with a swastika painted on it.
The judge ruled that the behavior of the defendant was reprehensible, but it did not promote fascism.
In April last year, Piotr P., a 30-year-old resident of Chorzow, was detained after walking around the city with a black shirt with a swastika painted on the front and a black eagle holding a wreath with a swastika, the official symbol of the Third Reich, on the back. He was detained while drinking beer with friends. Breathalyzer test showed that he had a blood alcohol level four times higher than allowed by Polish law.
The prosecutor asked for a two-year jail sentence for promoting fascism. The defendant claimed that he “borrowed the shirt from his sister and wore it to see what reactions he would get.”
The judge denied the prosecutor’s request and acquitted the man, saying that his behavior did not promote fascism.