Polish senator suspended for klezmer-themed video of Nazi violence to Jews
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Polish senator suspended for klezmer-themed video of Nazi violence to Jews

(JTA) — Poland’s ruling party suspended a senator who posted online footage from a Nazi propaganda movie depicting violence against Jews to the sounds of klezmer music.

On Thursday, the Law and Justice party suspended Waldemar Bonkowski for posting the video on Facebook earlier in the week amid an acrimonious argument between many Poles and Jews over the Polish government’s passing this month of a law criminalizing blaming Poland for Nazi crimes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protested the law and called “outrageous” a remark by his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, who said in defending the law that there were also Jewish perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Morawiecki in an interview Feb. 18 was addressing claims that the law whitewashes complicity by some Poles in the Holocaust.

The debate around the law, which is opposed also by the World Jewish Congress and the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel, has generated an increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric in Poland, according to Jonny Daniels, a commemoration activist from the From the Depths group with friendly ties to Morawiecki. Bonkowski’s post, which Daniels said was “hateful,” is part of that increase.

Daniels, who had slammed Morawiecki’s remark as a form of “Holocaust denial,” welcomed what he called the “swift action” by Law and Justice.

But provocative and “extremist rhetoric was rising on both sides,” Daniels added, citing the production of a video posted this week by the Ruderman Family Foundation that featured Jews saying the words “Polish Holocaust” in promoting a petition urging the United States to suspend its ties with Poland. The film was taken offline following protests by Polish Jews and non-Jews.

Also last week, 23 Jewish groups signed a statement saying their members felt less safe in Poland following the fallout of the debate.

“I understand how someone could feel afraid,” Daniels said. He added, however, that the hate speech that erupted in the wake of the debate has yet to lead to physical violence.