Obama’s holocaust comment

Posted on 30. May, 2012 by in Culture, Current News, Economy, Famous people, History

Poland has demanded an apology from Washington after President Barack Obama spoke of a “Polish death camp” while announcing an award to a resistance fighter for alerting the world to the Nazi Holocaust, largely perpetrated on Polish soil.

The matter is a delicate one in Poland, which suffered a brutal Nazi occupation during World War Two and has long campaigned against suggestions it bore any responsibility for the slaughter of some 6 million European Jews.

“The White House will apologise for the outrageous mistake,” Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday. “It’s a pity that ignorance and incompetence overshadowed such a momentous ceremony.”

On Wednesday, Sikorski said he did not suspect Obama of ill will and blamed the “grave mistake” on the White House’s speech writers and press service.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said: “The president misspoke – he was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland. We regret this misstatement, which should not detract from the clear intention to honour Mr. Karski and those brave citizens who stood on the side of human dignity in the face of tyranny.”

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, speaking after the issue filled Polish media on Wednesday, said: “When somebody says ‘Polish death camps’ it is as if there were no Nazis, no German responsibility, no Hitler.”

He urged Washington to make up for the mistake by actively supporting Warsaw’s drive against such rhetoric.

The posthumous award for Jan Karski was to honour him for bringing some of the first eyewitness testimony of the Holocaust to the outside world, after he was smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Nazi camp (read post US Medal of Freedom for Jan Karski)

Karski travelled to London, Washington and elsewhere urging action to prevent the mass extermination of Jews.

Israel’s Yad Vashem institute has awarded Karski the Righteous Among the Nations title for his efforts to aid Jews, and to more than 6,300 other Poles, more than any other nationality, despite the fact that Poland’s history is littered with anti-Semitism.

Some 3.3 million Jews lived in Poland before 1939. Most perished during World War Two, among nearly 6 million Polish deaths in total.

A museum dedicated to the history of Polish Jews is now under construction in the capital Warsaw.

“We should use this huge gaffe to make sure nobody, nowhere in the world, ever says that again,” said Lech Wałęsa, Poland’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Jewish Culture Festival – Festiwal Kultury Żydowskiej

Posted on 29. May, 2012 by in Calendar, Culture, music, Places to visit

The Jewish Culture Festival is a major event which takes place in Kraków every summer.

The Kazimierz, the Jewish district of Kraków is perhaps one of the best known centres of Jewish culture in Poland. Jews have lived in Kraków for many years, as far back as the 10th century, though not always as citizens with full-rights. Nevertheless, they have always been an integral part of the city’s culturallandscape, contributing not only to the development of the city but also to its culture and character. Kraków, and especially the Jewish Kazimierz district, is often referred to as the ‘Polish Jerusalem’ thanks to the incredibly vibrant spiritual and cultural life of the Jewish community.  You simply could not imagine Kraków without its Jewish heritage, yet the city still feels the pain of loss – Jews accounted for a quarter of the city’s population before World War II.

What can visitors expect? The early festivals focused on history, on the culture of Ashkenazic Jews, on yiddishkeit. Nowadays, the festival is a showcase of contemporary Jewish culture in its entire richness – there is a place for both Ashkenazic and Sephardic cultures, but also for contemporary Israeli culture; there is a place for traditional culture but also the more avant-garde. It presents mainstream Jewish music, such as klezmer and synagogal, which is all very traditional but there is also rooms for contemporary fusions – with jazz, funk and rock. Visitors can expect interaction – of course they will be watching and consuming Jewish culture by attending the concerts, exhibitions, lectures, film screening and sightseeing tours, but that they will also be invited to take part in a series of workshops, giving them a chance of enjoy active participation and even make a contribution to Jewish culture. Best of all, the festival presents Jewish culture, not as a museum artefact, but as a dynamic, contemporary, developing phenomenon, yet one that has its roots firmly in respecting Poland’s Jewish heritage.

Where do visitors come from? Across Europe, or further afield? The earlier festivals attracted small audiences that were predominantly Polish, however this has changed a lot in recent years. The Jewish Culture Festival now attracts some 25, 000 visitors from all over the world. The majority of visitors come from Poland, of course, though we have guests from all over Europe, the USA and even distant countries such as Japan, Argentina and Australia. It has also attracted an increasing number of visitors from Israel in the past few years. For many of these visitors, it is the festival that attracts them to Poland in the first place.

Do visitors have to be Jewish in order to appreciate the festival? No – not at all. Most of the visitors are not Jewish – and this is the great phenomenon of the festival. Many Jewish festivals throughout the world tend to be dedicated to a Jewish audience, whereas they actively encourage non-Jews to come along and learn more about Jewish culture, and meet real Jews. By real Jew, what they mean is a real person with flesh and bones, and not just some stereotype. This is the most important part of the festival – real dialogue, real interaction and a real experience. This aspect of the festival is one that is appreciated by both the Jews and the non-Jews who come to the festival.

What is the future of the festival, and how will it develop in years to come? The festival will be always walkingside by side with contemporary Jewish culture. It will always showcase the directions that it takes, but will never forget its roots.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)


Promotion of fascism punishment

Posted on 26. May, 2012 by in Culture, Current News, Regulations

Authorities have launched an inquiry into the case of two Asian tourists who are alleged to have made offensive gestures (obraźliwe gesty) promoting fascism (faszyzm) at Auschwitz recently.

The incident (incydent) took place at the beginning of May and involves two men at the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ entrance gate who are believed to have made the Nazi salute (hitlerowskie pozdrowieniu) and “insulted the memorial space” (“znieważyli przestrzeń pamiątkową”).

The guards monitoring the security cameras noticed the two Asian men and noted down their personal details.

Not long after the incident occurred, security guards notified the police (policja) and the video footage has been saved to help with the investigation (śledztwo, dochodzenie).

So far the authorities have not yet been able to speak to the two tourists, but will now decide whether their actions can be considered as promoting fascism.

The promotion of fascism in Poland in punishable by up to two years behind bars and insulting the memory of victims, by either a fine or restraining order.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)