Nobel Winners Slam Government for Not Ending Crisis over Crosses

A group of prominent Polish intellectuals and an association of Polish war veterans have criticized the Polish government for failing to take action that would end the crisis over the crosses erected by Catholic fundamentalists at Auschwitz.

Six eminent Polish intellectuals, including Nobel Prize-winning poets Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska, published an open letter to Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek last week calling for government intervention to halt the crisis.

The letter, published in the newspaper Gazeta Wybocza, said the controversy over the hundreds of crosses erected by Catholic extremists since July "disturbs Poles, insults Jews and causes concern in world opinion."

The militants who claim to be "defending" the crosses, actually want to provoke unrest and conflict in Poland, the letter said.

It urged Buzek to step in and "stop the provocation" at Auschwitz.

A Krakow-based association of "veterans and freedom fighters," meanwhile, issued a statement supporting the intellectuals’ letter, according to the Polish news agency PAP.

PAP said the association represented some 20 organizations. It said the veterans protested "the incomprehensible passivity of Polish state authorities in the face of the protracted conflict" at Auschwitz.

"The government is responsible for tolerating this political and religious provocation which causes public anxiety."

At the same time, however, extreme right-wing activists, including Leszek Bubel, one of the leaders of the campaign to erect the crosses, have published the first issue of what they said will be a monthly magazine called "Now, Poland."

Stanislaw Krajewski, a member of the board of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland and a consultant to the American Jewish Committee, called the magazine "frightening" because of its apparently wide distribution, anti- Semitic content and aggressive tone.

"They present themselves as patriots and Catholics who must defend Poland against Jewish assaults," Krajewski said from Warsaw.

"The magazine contains several anti-Semitic texts," he said, including a front- page article claiming that a "Polish-Jewish war" was under way and that "Jews must understand that those who fight with a sword die by a sword."

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