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Anti-semitic Overtones Emerge at Ceremony for Polish Workers

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Anti-Semitic overtones emerged at a ceremony this week in Warsaw commemorating the 20th anniversary of worker protests in 1976 that sowed the seeds for the Solidarity trade union movement four years later.

The Tuesday ceremony, which included a Mass celebrated by Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp, was held at the Ursus tractor factory to recall the June 25, 1976, strikes and violent clashes between workers and police at Ursus and in the city of Radom.

At least four people were killed and scores were injured in the clashes, which protested work conditions and price hikes. Many workers were jailed.

The 1976 protests led to the formation of KOR, the Committee for the Defense of Workers’ Rights, which developed into Communist Poland’s most important dissident group.

KOR initially was made up mainly of intellectuals, some of whom were of Jewish origin, including Adam Michnik. KOR members worked closely with Lech Walesa and other worker leaders to help found the Solidarity movement in 1980.

Stanislaw Krajewski, the American Jewish Committee consultant in Warsaw, said in a telephone interview that only a few former KOR members were invited to Tuesday’s ceremony. Those who were invited, he said, are today part of the political right wing.

During the ceremony, Zygmunt Wrzodak, the present head of the Solidarity Union chapter at Ursus and who is known for his extreme right, anti-Semitic views, used anti-Semitic invective to criticize liberal KOR intellectuals and their activities in the 1970s.

“Frustrated atheists” used the Ursus and Radom events for “their own non-Polish goals,” he said.

“[Jacek] Kuron, Michnik and comrades fixed on their hatred of Poland, played cynically on our misfortunes,” he said, adding, “They wanted to buy into our Polish Catholic worker circles in order to get power … together with their ideological brethren, the Communists.”

Krajewski said, “Wrzodak’s words have a very clear anti-Semitic meaning, recognizable to everyone in Poland. In KOR there were many assimilated Jews. They all worked closely with others, and their views, actions, risks, prison terms never differed.”

“Wrzodak is an extremist, but apparently has a lot of power, because representatives of other wings of Solidarity do not disavow him in public,” Krajewski added.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The following is a revised and updated version of the story appearing in the June 25 JTA Daily Dispatch about the Argentine justice minister.

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