Michal Kaminski, The Tories and Polish Anti-Semitism 43

Iain Dale has an interesting interview with Michal Kaminski. I think Iain should be congratulated for asking all the right questions, rather well. It is not his fault that Kaminski was dissembling wildly in his answers.


I knew Kaminski slightly when he was a young political activist in the late 1990s. I was at the time First Secretary in the British Embassy and much concerned to identify the new political leadership, untainted by Communist mindset, which might bring Poland into the European Union. I should say that the Embassy had a group of young Second Secretaries who were absolutely brilliant in this. William Elliott, Anna Clunes, Andy Smith and Dominic Meiklejohn were amazingly talented; I tried to take credit for their work!

Life is complicated sometimes. Kaminski certainly was anti-Semitic. He was also a very personable and polite young man. Let me try to explain this paradox.

When Alexander Kasniewski defeated Lech Walesa to become President of Poland in 1995, Kaminski was one of the right wing activists involved in lobbying the media to publish stories stating that Kwasniewski’s grandmother was Jewish. That accusation became the focal point of the entire election campaign. The Kwasniewski camp felt unable to reply that the ethnicity of Kwasniewski’s grandmother was immaterial; in fact, they went to great lengths to produce documents and witnesses to show that she was not Jewish. That fact is crucial to an understanding of the depth of anti-semitism in Poland. Even Kwasniewski felt unable to face it down electorally.

Living in Poland for four years, I was continually shocked by the casual anti-semitism I encountered. One day I was going to lunch with Kasia Krause (now a diplomat at the Polish Embassy in London). I said to the kindly old Polish lady in the Embassy who fixed my appointments:

“Oh Kasia, that’s great, she’s really lovely”.

The old lady replied

“You do realise she is Jewish, don’t you?”

It would be a lie to say that I encountered casual anti-semitism every day. But I did so often enough to be severely worried – and often from very nice people who did not otherwise have weird opinions. Anti-semitism was absolutely endemic in the Polish Catholic Church, and still is. There has been no serious attempt to eradicate it, despite the odd rap on the knuckles for Walesa’s priest Father Jankowski or the rabid crowd at Radio Marija – Kaminski’s most important media support. It is worth noting that whilst within the Polish Catholic Church, the conservative Polish Pope John Paul II had always been considered a far liberal.

I should add that a young black British businessmen reported to me that being spat at was an almost daily occurence.

The strange thing is that I adore Poland, and Poles, and Polish culture. I was ever so happy in my time there. There are reasons for the development of this deep-seated racist strain which are historic. There is a limit to how far you can blame individuals for adopting attitudes which are widespread in their culture; and without understanding you cannot change attitudes. Which brings me back to Kaminski. Much as he tries to hide his past, for the present I do not think we should rule out that he really has changed his views, after being exposed to wider cultural influences (like Iain Dale!)

There undoubtedly remain, however, many really nasty anti-Semites in the political grouping in Poland around Kaminski. I still think the Tories will regret this alliance. It is a wonderful irony that Kamiski is a strong advocate of the Lisbon Treay, which rather obviates the reason for the Tories to have shot themselves in the foot with their weird alliances.

A key part of Poland coming to terms with its anti-semitism will be an acknowledgement of what Polish people did to Jews in or just after World War II. Iain Dale’s questioning about the Jedwabne massacre is actually important. This was one of a number of massacres of Jews by Poles, but there were also hundreds of individual murders of Jewish survivors who inconveniently resurfaced, and perhaps tried to reclaim their property.

Poland must come to terms with all of its history, not just the heroic bits. Poland suffered terribly for three hundred years of near continuous foreign occupation. It was moved about physically on the map, sometimes disappearing, and emerged an artificially placed and artificially ethnically homogenous nation. Of course it was screwed up and nationalistic. Of course Kamnski is screwed up and nationalistic. Poland is slowly getting better. Who knows? Maybe Michal is too.

43 thoughts on “Michal Kaminski, The Tories and Polish Anti-Semitism

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  • Craig


    Smear is not always logical especially when you mix in the isceral hatred of Kwasniewski and the ex-communists. Not sure if you were there, but the right found the whole idea of former communists coming to power again as simply unthinkable.

    I agree about Hannah, but remember her camp denied she was Jewish too. There are very few Polish politicians who have not been accused of being Jewish at some stage, which is precisely my point.

    Of course I am not saying that it was Michal who spat at black people. My point is quite the opposite. It is understandable that Michal had some unpleasant attitudes when he was younger because they are endemic to a large part of the society he grew up in. But it seems he may have outgrown them. Pretending they never existed I know to be bollocks.

  • Summer

    I find the views of Avatar Singh deeply racist, ie they are based on hatred of people of the Anglo Saxon, and particularly British race.

  • MikeSC

    The comments seem to be full of anti-semitism, which is not good to see. Condemn the actions of the Israeli government, sure- condemn Zionism- but to condemn a race of people is just absurd and racist.

    There’s an interesting question, though- is it okay to condemn the adherents of a particular religion as someone did with Judaism in the comments? I guess it’s like condemning adherents of a particular ideology in politics… but it still seems iffy to me, cherry picking the adherents of a single religion to attack has the feel of bigotry about it.

  • Andrew

    It is so easy casting stones at others, but before condemning Poland we should look at the entire record not just the ugly side. It was Poland under Casmir the great that that gave asylum to Jews thrown out of England by King John, the Jews who escaped the Spanish inquisition as well as Jews persecuted in Germany. There is a good reason why the Jewish population in Poland was the largest in Europe and Warsaw the largest Jewish city in the world that is simply because the Poles were far more tolerant than the countries around them. Some of the laws accorded to Jews during Poland’s history included rights regarding powers of taxation, allowing Jews to raise taxes on their community for their own benefits as well as a degree of independence which bordered on semi-autonomy from the Polish state.

    Rights and liberties simply unheard of in other countries, it’s pathetic that ignorant commentators should talk such trash considering the UK’s race relations i.e. the recent pogrom in Northern Ireland against the Roma community as well as the Bedford race riots, not to mention the racism experienced by Poles working in the UK. From knowledge of Polish politics, I can assure many that there is no equivalent in Polish politics of a party with the degree of support that the fascist BNP gets in the UK.

    If Mr. Murry is so in love with Poland perhaps he should explain Poland’s entire history of race relations, and why being Jewsih did not hurt Bartoszewski and Geremek in becoming Poland’s Foreign ministers in the nineties.

    Furthermore why isn’t Mr. Murray talking about some of Labour’s fellow travelers in their parliamentary grouping in the EU? A political agenda perhaps?

    It also unsettles me to see a British foreign minister so gleefully putting the boot in when some of his ancestors welcomed the Bolshevik invasion of Poland; one might conclude that he might not be the most objective when it comes to this issue.

  • Mark

    ‘There is a good reason why the Jewish population in Poland was the largest in Europe and Warsaw the largest Jewish city ‘- yes, and it’s because modern day Poland formed a large swathe of the Tzarist Pale of Settlement. Liberal Polish attitutes towards Jews half a millenia ago have little to do with it.

    Like Craig (and Norman Davies), I found it easy to ‘adore’ Poland & the Poles during a couple of short visits there in the early 90s. However on the first trip I was bearded (then predominantly black)and on my fist night there , in the company of a couple of friends (none of us Jewish as I far as I know) we were chased from a hotel bar with shouts of ‘zhid!’ from the resident local lush.

    On my second trip, to avoid further misdirected antisemitism, I took the precaution of travelling clean-shaven, and had no problems.

  • Simon Dyda

    “A key part of Poland coming to terms with its anti-semitism will be an acknowledgement of what Polish people did to Jews in or just after World War II.”

    Many Poles selflessly helped the Jews. Jewish children were hidden in many convents. Some estimates put the number of Poles involved in the rescue of Jews at up to 3 million, and credit Poles with saving up to around 450,000 Jews from certain death. Israel has awarded 6,135 Righteous among the Nations medals to Polish Gentiles ?” more than to any other nation. The rescue efforts were aided by one of the largest anti-Nazi resistance movements in Europe, the Polish Underground State and its military arm, the Armia Krajowa. Supported by the Polish government in exile, these organizations operated special units dedicated to helping Jews; of those, the most notable was Zegota.

    To focus on the warts instead of on the bigger picture is absurd, particularly as 3 million Polish Gentiles were killed by the same anti-Semitist invaders who slaughtered 3 million Polish Jews during the war.

  • suraci

    If Poland is as you say, I’ll probably move there. To have wide spread awareness of the Jewish problem is an unusual thing these days. The British government is absolutely dominated by Jews and their agenda, as all right thinking people know.

    If those who still do not acknowledge this fact persist in their self delusion, they will grow ever stronger.

  • Jon

    @suraci – it is fine to say that the British government is influenced by Zionism, and it is true also that collectively they have not done anything significant to aid the Palestinian cause, whilst bending over backwards for the Israeli government.

    But your views about the “Jewish problem” reflect almost exactly the thinking of Hitler and his Nazi party, and as such is deeply racist. Where do you stop with this ideology? I trust you would at least condemn the Holocaust.

    You should be aware too that there are a great number of Jewish people worldwide who are opposed to Zionism – and I hope they would have your support. Perhaps, in whatever country you are posting from, you should seek out such a group, and find out that being Jewish (as opposed to being a Zionist) is not something worthy of anyone’s hatred.

  • repcrac

    Dear Craig,

    As a a regular Radio Maryja listener I was absolutely amazed to read your description of me and millions of other Poles as a “rabid crowd” who deserved the occasional “rap on the knuckles” for our anti-semitism. Having worked at the British Embassy in Warsaw you have, I’m sure, a good working knowledge of Polish, so I trust that the accusation you level against Radio Maryja is based on your personal listening experience and not on the disinformation routinely churned out by the anti-Catholic propaganda machine.

    I myself have never heard any anti-semitic comment coming from the lips of any of the Radio Maryja staff and I’ve been listening to them for donkey’s years — ever since they started broadcasting, in fact. The Redemptorist fathers who run Radio Maryja literally have no time for anti-semitism — what they’re interested in is exposing the machinations of the various mafias who control most of the media and many of the politicians in Poland. Indeed, regular speakers on Radio Maryja include Jews such as Antoni Macierewicz, who like Kaminski is a prominent member of the PIS or “Law and Justice” Party.

    It just so happens that a recent report on Radio Maryja — drawn up by a team led by the left-wing sociologist Ireneusz Krzeminski (Warsaw University)– concludes that there is no truth in the allegation that Radio Maryja propagates anti-semitism:


    Your comments about Jedwabne are also wide off the mark, but I haven’t got time to go into that now. Suffice it to say that when the Polish government ordered that the bodies of the Jews who were murdered in Jedwabne be exhumed, the exhumation was stopped by the then minister of justice (Lech Kaczynski, no less, the twin brother of the leader of the PIS Party and the current president of Poland) at the urgent request of (wait for it!) … JEWISH organizations, who were appalled to see that all the evidence produced by the exhumation (including a statue of Lenin which the Jedwabne Jews had erected in order to welcome the Red Army!) pointed to one of many routine Gestapo operations during World War II and not to a “pogrom” (as if the Germans would ever issue weapons to Poles — who they despised and hated just as much as they despised and hated Jews).

    Even if some Poles HAD felt like taking revenge on the Jedwabne Jews for collaborating with the Soviet secret police (i.e. providing the Russians with lists of Poles to be rounded up and either executed or sent to Siberia), they knew only too well that the penalty for ANY collaboration with the Nazis was death (swiftly meted out by the Polish Resistance). Indeed, German newspapers frequently complained that in Nazi-occupied Poland the “anti-semitic” Poles steadfastly refused to co-operate with the Germans, who were doing their best to “solve the Jewish problem”. I once saw facsimiles of such articles in a collection of documents published in Britain during World War II (I think it was called the “Polish Black Book” or something like that). You can check it out for yourself.

    Do get your facts straight and do check your sources!

  • repcrac

    I’ve just checked that book using COPAC:

    “Main author: Poland. Departments of State. Ministry of Information.

    Title details: The German invasion of Poland : Polish Black Book containing documents, authenticated reports and photographs / Ministry of Information, Poland ; preface by the Archbishop of York; and, The German New Order in Poland.

    [ Polish Black Book. ]

    Published: London, 1940-1942.

    Physical desc.: 2 v.

    Other names: Temple, William, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1881-1944.

    Language: English

    For local availability select a library name below.

    Copies held by:

    * St. Andrews”

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