Tag Archives: Poland

Auschwitz survivor spends 71st Valentine’s Day with soldier who rescued her

A Hungarian Jew is preparing to spend her 71st Valentine’s Day with the Scottish soldier who rescued her from Auschwitz.

Edith Steiner was 20 when John Mackay’s commando unit liberated her and a number of other Jewish prisoners from the concentration camp in Poland.

She caught the eye of the then 23-year-old John at a village hall dance to celebrate their liberation but he was too shy to approach her.

Continue reading Auschwitz survivor spends 71st Valentine’s Day with soldier who rescued her

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Poland to honor Wikipedia with monument

Wikipedia is very popular in Poland. Picture: Wikimedia

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A university professor says that an eastern Polish town is taking up his suggestion and will put up a monument to honor the authors of Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia which allows anyone to contribute.

Krzysztof Wojciechowski, director of the Collegium Polonicum in Slubice, said Thursday that he is in awe of the huge and reliable job done by the Wikipedia, vastly popular in Poland.

In this image made available from Krzysztof Wojciechowski of the Collegium Polonicum in Slubice, Poland, a model statue which has been put forward by university professor Krzysztof Wojciechowski as a monument tribute to honor the authors of the online Internet encyclopedia site Wikipedia, which will be unveiled in the western Polish town of Slubice, it is announced Thursday Oct. 9, 2014. The monument will be unveiled in Slubice, Poland, on Oct.22 to honor the authors of Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia is hugely popular in Poland, with more than 1 million Polish entries in Wikipedia. (AP Photo/ Adam Czernenko, Krzysztof Wojciechowski of the Collegium Polonicum in Slubice)

More than 1 million entries in Wikipedia are in Polish, rivaling the number in French or Spanish.

“I’m ready to drop to my knees before the Wikipedia, that’s why I thought of a monument where I could do it,” Wojciechowski told The Associated Press.

The 47,000 zlotys ($14,000; 11,000 euros) fiber and resin statue is funded by Slubice authorities and will be unveiled Oct. 22.

Scotland full of eastern European criminals

SCOTLAND has so many eastern European criminal suspects that the Polish military has been called in to fly them home, the Sunday Express has learned.

Hundreds of overseas fugitives are being caught here and sent home every year with majority coming from Poland, South Africa and the USA.

Earlier this year, there were close to 400 live cases involving 62 different countries – either Scots who had fled abroad or foreign nationals wanted for often serious crimes.

The military flights from Edinburgh Airport – dubbed Con Air after the Hollywood movie – were introduced to keep costs down and cope with the soaring demand.

A Scottish Government report on international criminals, seen by the Sunday Express, states: “To facilitate the increasing number of extraditions to Poland and to reduce costs involved, arrangements have been made for Polish military flights to land at Edinburgh airport.”

Following the introduction of the European Arrest Warrant in 2004, thousands of foreign suspects are being caught and sent home from Britain every year.

Four years ago, the Polish authorities also introduced regular military flights from Biggin Hill airport in Kent to cope with a peak in demand.

An 80-seater Polish military twin-propeller aircraft was sometimes making two flights a week to Warsaw, extraditing suspects in crimes ranging from murder to theft of a chicken. Many of those extradited were returning to Britain within days.

Last night the Scottish Conservatives said it was right for the Polish authorities to foot the bill for the removal of wanted criminals.

Alex Johnstone MSP added: “It stands to reason that the more foreign people who come to live in the UK, the more there are going to be in prison settings.

“The vast majority of Polish migrant workers have been an asset to Scotland, taking jobs many people here have no interest in pursuing.

“But it is important that when crimes are committed, taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill of keeping them in jail and they should serve their sentences in their native country where possible.”

However, the need for military extradition flights reveals the worrying level of international offenders in Scotland.

The Sunday Express can also reveal details of a new Home Office operation to catch foreign offenders who have committed a crime on these shores.

Operation Nexus was introduced by the Metropolitan Police in London and has since been rolled out to Birmingham, Manchester and now north of the Border.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We liaised closely with the Metropolitan Police prior to the roll out of this operation in Scotland in May 2014, to learn from their considerable experience when dealing with offenders who are foreign nationals.

“Police Scotland, in partnership with Home Office Immigration Enforcement Officers, have successfully removed a number of foreign nationals as a direct result of Operation Nexus. There are also a number of pending cases.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was an operational matter for the Home Office. The Home Office insisted the flights were under the remit of the National Crime Agency.

The news follows a damning report last week which exposed a staggering failure to deal with the soaring numbers of foreign criminals in Britain.

Home Office officials have lost track of 760 of the 4,200 offenders who had been freed back on to our streets by the end of March 2014 pending their removal.

The report by the National Audit Office said this figure included 58 ‘high harm’ individuals, a category that includes rapists, killers and drug dealers.

Prime Minister David Cameron blamed “obstacles” such as EU legislation on human rights and free movement.

His comments came as the family of murdered schoolgirl Alice Gross gathered for her funeral.

The 14-year-old went missing from her home in Hanwell, west London, in August and her body was found hidden in the River Brent about a month later.

Her suspected killer, Latvian national Arnis Zalkalns, now dead, was a convicted murderer who came to the UK in 2007.

Polish Jews split over plan to exhume 1941 massacre victims

A prosecutor’s request to glean evidence on the Wasosz killing sparks communal dispute on Jewish law and historical redemption

TA — In September 1941, a group of villagers wielding axes and other tools descended upon the homes of their Jewish neighbors and murdered every last one, according to testimonies gathered by Holocaust scholars.

Not much else is known about the massacre in Wasosz, a village 100 miles east of Warsaw, including basics like the number of victims. Current estimates range widely, from 180 to 1,200.

In an effort to provide conclusive forensic evidence about the massacre, in July a Polish prosecutor asked Jewish community leaders for permission to exhume the bodies. The plan has split the community, with some passionately supporting what they see as a last chance for justice and others claiming it would violate the dignity of the dead and Jewish religious law, or halachah.

“Once the bodies are in the ground, halachah teaches us they are not to be disturbed except when it is done to protect the dignity of the dead or to save lives,” Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told JTA. “I and other rabbis and the leadership of the Jewish community in Warsaw, among others, feel neither stipulation applies to Wasosz. A desire to clarify history is not enough.”

Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, the country’s main Jewish umbrella group, called Schudrich’s position “a serious mistake, with detrimental implications.”

“We have tools to determine details about both victims and perpetrators in a matter which is still a criminal matter,” said Kadlcik, who is seeking an exhumation followed by Jewish burial of the human remains. “If we let this chance go, the case of Wasosz will become history — an unclear one and subject to falsification.”

In a move to undermine opponents to exhumation, Kadlcik has requested an opinion from Rabbi Yakov Ruza, a prominent authority in Israel on forensic medicine. Polish prosecutors have also reviewed the Israeli law that permits exhumation in cases involving a murder investigation, Kadlcik said.

Meanwhile, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance — the government body whose prosecutor, Radoslaw Ignatiew, initiated the investigation of Wasosz — is holding off on any exhumation until at least 2015 while the issue is discussed within the Jewish community.

The debate has ramifications well beyond an internal Jewish dispute over halachah and forensics. In the background are echoes of Jedwabne, an earlier investigation of another wartime mass murder of Jews by Poles.

The opening of that probe in 2001 was a watershed moment for Poland, according to Joanna Michlic, a historian at Bristol University, who wrote a 43-page paper chronicling how the debate split the Catholic Church, generated ultranationalist protests featuring anti-Semitic hate speech, led to the replacement of a memorial plaque that blamed the Germans for the murders and, finally, yielded the first admission by a Polish president of Polish guilt.

Before Jedwabne, Holocaust-era crimes by Poles were taboo because they undermined the communist narrative that all Poles were equal victims of Nazism. The subject remains divisive today because it undermines the current government’s focus on Polish wartime heroism and resistance to totalitarianism.

From a forensic perspective, the dig in Jedwabne was inconclusive. Though an excavation of the site revealed some human remains, it never progressed to include exhumation — as per understandings reached between Polish authorities and rabbis, including Schudrich.

Without exhumation, it was impossible to answer such basic questions as how many people died, which in turn left the door open to revisionism in far-right circles. Several nationalist lawmakers, clergymen and journalists continue to dispute Polish complicity.

“Jedwabne was ultimately a missed opportunity,” Jan Gross, the Princeton historian whose research triggered the 2001 debate, told JTA. “Some important findings were recovered, but questions persisted because the probe was interrupted before basic facts could be recovered.”

For Kadlcik, Wasosz is a chance to correct the opportunity missed at Jedwabne.

“For the ultranationalists, the bottom line from Jedwabne is as follows: The Jews made accusations but hid behind their religious laws at the first attempt to corroborate,” Kadlcik said. “Well, this time we need to settle this and serve justice.”

But Schudrich also drew painful lessons from the Jedwabne probe.

“The entire place was littered with human remains — not just the area where we thought the bodies lay,” he said. “So as soon as the digging began, we saw bones fused together in fire, earrings of little girls. We found children’s bones. To any reasonable person, that settled any doubts there may have been about a massacre. There is no justification to violate the dignity of the dead.”

As for serving justice, Schudrich said, “The perpetrators will get justice from God. The small minority that refuses to face reality and historical evidence, no exhumation is going to change their minds.”

Lithuania to become first country to arm Ukraine against Russia

Vilnius says other NATO members should follow Lithuania’s example

Lithuania’s ambassador to Ukraine says Vilnius is ready to start shipping defensive weapons to Ukraine to help the country stop Russia seizing more of its territory.

Marius Yanukonis told Ukraine’s Channel 5 that Lithuania wanted to be the first country to openly arm Ukraine and hoped it would set an example to other NATO countries which he said should follow suit.

The move came as US Senator John McCain, during a trip to Kyiv, piled more pressure on the Obama administration saying the US must do more to deter Russia from escalating its military operations in Ukraine. McCain said that the US must arm Ukraine without delay before Putin became more emboldened.

John McCain, Republican US Senator: “The House of Representatives feels the same, overwhelming majority of American people feel the same. I can’t answer for the president of the United States and his administrations, except to say that I know that this is shameful, shameful that we would not provide them with weapons to defend themselves. They are fighting with 20th century weapons against Russia’s 20st century weapons. That’s not a fair fight.”

NATO has been holding military drills across several Eastern European countries in recent weeks as a way of reassuring NATO-member countries there unnerved by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; but Kyiv is hoping for more US support.

Last week the US Congress passed the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) which includes a provision that would give President Barack Obama’s administration USD 300 million for Ukrainian security assistance if Obama signs the bill.

US military advisors are already training the Ukrainian military. About 300 US paratroopers arrived in Ukraine in April to train Kyiv’s National Guard.

Britain has already sent military personnel to train Ukrainian troops, while Canada and Poland have pledged to send 200 and 50 instructors respectively this year. But Western countries with the exception of Lithuania have so far declined its requests to supply weapons.

Poland’s presidential election — Swinging right

A young challenger’s win kindles worries that Poland could return to its erratic days under the Law and Justice party

MANY dismissed it as a fluke when, in the first round of Poland’s presidential electionstwo weeks ago, the heavily favoured incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski, finished second to Andrzej Duda of the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS).

On Sunday Mr Duda (pictured) showed that the prior result was no accident, defeating Mr Komorowski in the runoff election by a margin that late-night exit polls put at 52% to 48%.

Some of the credit goes to Mr Duda, an energetic young candidate who started the race as a relatively unknown member of the European Parliament. Yet Mr Duda’s win also reflects widespread disillusionment with Mr Komorowski and the ruling centre-right Civic Platform party (PO) that backed him.

It could presage a PiS win in parliamentary elections this autumn. After eight years of centrist government, Poland appears to be swinging back to the right.

At Mr Duda’s election event in Warsaw, supporters impatient for the results after a two-week interval found themselves waiting an extra 90 minutes when a death at a polling station delayed the presentation of the exit polls.

By the time they were announced, the temperature was tropical, and the sweaty crowd jeered at a projection screen showing Mr Komorowski conceding defeat. Mr Duda was more circumspect, thanking his rival politely and promising an “open presidency” that would welcome a wide range of initiatives.

Mr Komorowki’s backers put much of the blame for defeat on his lacklustre campaign. After Paweł Kukiz, a former rock star, won 20% of the vote in the first round with a campaign demanding that Poland switch its electoral system from party lists to single-member districts, Mr Komorowski tried to court his supporters by promising a referendum on the issue.

The hurried move only dented Mr Komorowski’s credibility. (Meanwhile, the referendum has been approved by the Senate and will take place in September.) Mr Komorowski’s efforts to portray Mr Duda as a dangerous radical proved ineffective, as the PiS candidate kept his rhetoric carefully moderate.

“Each of us is a bit rational and a bit radical, but we need to look for shared values,” Mr Duda said on the campaign trail last week.

The danger is that Mr Duda’s election could herald the return of the erratic and confrontational Poland of PiS’s previous term in power from 2005-2007, which was characterised by domestic and international paranoia, particularly towards Germany.

The cover of one news magazine showed Mr Duda peeling off a rubber mask to reveal the face of Jarosław Kaczyński, the veteran leader of PiS, who is a more divisive right-wing figure. PiS is trying to avoid that association; at Mr Duda’s election event, Mr Kaczyński was nowhere to be seen.

One area where many fear a PiS president could cause damage is Poland’s reputation in the European Union. That has risen dramatically over the past decade, as evidenced bythe appointment of Donald Tusk, the former prime minister, as president of the European Council last autumn.

Last week five former Polish foreign ministers, including Radosław Sikorski, who held the position under Mr Tusk, published an open letter in support of Mr Komorowski.

“Rowdiness, complexes and conflicts lead to alienation,” they wrote, referring to the PiS’s term in power. (Anna Fotyga, who was foreign minister under the PiS in 2006-2007, did not sign.)

Mr Duda has tried to defray such anxieties, but he must also play to the more nationalist voices in the PiS. In a televised debate last week, Mr Duda said it was important to build good neighbourly relations, but added that

“we cannot assume that we are a category B [second-rate] country.”

Mr Duda may in fact be a new breed of PiS politician. His relatively moderate language and efforts to cultivate cross-party support are very different from the xenophobic nationalism practised by the previous PiS-backed president, the late Lech Kaczyński (Jarosław’s twin brother).

He certainly has political talent: at 7am on the morning after his victory, while most victors might have been resting on their laurels, Mr Duda was at Warsaw’s central metro station handing out cups of coffee to passersby.

In any case, the Polish presidency is non-partisan, meaning Mr Duda will have no official links to PiS. And while the president has veto powers, he is mainly a ceremonial head of state.

The greater risks lie with the PiS in parliament. The party is strongly sceptical of the EU, and many of its voters are fond of religious nationalism and conspiracy theories. Mr Duda’s victory is a painful reminder to the PO-led government that its time is running out.

Ewa Kopacz, the prime minister, will try to secure a third term for her party in parliamentary elections this autumn, but she has not built the kind of support Mr Tusk enjoyed. Polls already give PiS a narrow lead, and Mr Duda’s success is expected to widen it.

“We could feel the juices draining out of us after so many years of electoral losses,” said one jubilant PiS politician after it became clear Mr Duda was ahead.

Poland’s liberals dread the possibility that the PiS may be getting its old juices back.

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