Why this story matters:
When one grows up in Poland, a monument of the II World War where history is alive and wartime wounds still hurt, it is hard to imagine that neo-Nazis could be alive and well in the same country.
And then you see that video.
Big flags with swastika, SS uniforms, Nazi military marches in the background and a small altar dedicated to Adolf Hitler. Are we in Germany circa 1941? No, it's Poland in 2017.
Journalists from investigative program "Superwizjer" infiltrated a community of Polish neo-fascists called Pride & Modernity.
In the recording, we hear one participant say:
"F*ck, we have to be careful. We're being watched. When war comes, we'll get rid of all of them."
The documentary also shows neo-Nazi festivals and protests during which effigies of Polish politicians are symbolically sentenced to death and hung.
For the past few days, the media and social media have been agonizing over this definitive proof that neo-Nazi organizations are active in Poland. Many wonder how this could have happened after such great efforts were made over the last decade to commemorate victims of WWII and educate the youth.
The answer is politics.
Neo-Nazis, much like nationalist soccer fans, are groups that the ruling party (PiS) has been strategically flirting with over the last two years. One of the principles of the ruling elite seems to be: no one can be more right-wing than we are.
Interestingly, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling party, has always expressed pride in his parents who fought during the Warsaw Uprising. Fought the Nazis, that is.
This kind of paradox is at the heart of the matter. The ruling party aligns itself with war heros who fought the Nazis but has allowed organizations that admire them to gain political footing and suffer no repercussions despite their growing visibility over the last few years. Perhaps this strategy will now be scrapped because of public outcry after the documentary.
The Minister of Justice has called for an investigation, arrests have been made and politicians are making promises to outlaw the organizations from the documentary. Whether this is for show or in earnest remains to be seen. All we know so far is that when you play with fascist fire, it spreads.
Details from the story:
- TVN journalists infiltrated a Polish neo-fascist community called Pride & Modernity.
- In their documentary, they show neo-Nazis celebrating Hitler's birthday and holding other festivities.
- The organizer of Hitler's birthday celebration was Jacek Lanuszny, one of Pride & Modernity's main activists.
- Jacek Lanuszny also works as assistant to Robert Winnicki, the leader of an extreme-right organization called the "National Movement".
- Zbigniew Ziobro, the Polish Minister of Justice, called for an investigation the day after the documentary aired
- Five men have been detained for questioning since.
- Politicians from the opposition and the ruling party are calling for the delegalization of Pride & Modernity and similar organizations and for heftier fines for fascist activities.