Polish far-right groups stir up anti-Roma hatred in the shadow of Auschwitz

Minority blamed for crime and social grievances at rallies where local youths are recruited into vigilante patrols

andrychow

Less than 20 miles from Auschwitz, where once they shouted “Jews out”, football fans chant “Gypsies out”.

The small Roma community of Andrychow is living in fear since Polish far-right groups began a campaign of harassment against them.

The campaign began with a rally last month where the chant “Cyganies raus” (Gypsies or Roma out) was heard and has continued with social media and intimidation.

Roman Kwiatkowski, head of the Association of Roma in Poland, said Andrychow is the first case he has seen of an organised anti-Roma campaign in the country. “It is very dangerous,” he said. “It does not allow us to look to the future with confidence.”

Roma residents say they are living in fear.

Human rights campaigners believe the situation is being exacerbated by activists from outside the town who are being advised by the Jobbik party in Hungary on how to emulate their success.

Tamas Fodor, a Jobbik activist who was in Warsaw this month for meetings with like-minded Poles, denied his movement was giving recommendations to anyone in Poland.

“But if they see something that worked in Hungary, they can use it,” he said.

The football fans were shouting at a rally organised by Robert Winnicki, a far-right leader from Warsaw who said all the 100 or so ethnic Roma living in a town of 20,000 people should be driven out.

Jobbik’s tactic has been to hold rallies blaming Roma for crime and social grievances. They then recruit local youths into vigilante patrols, with the stated aim of protecting citizens from the Roma.

Roman Kwiatkowski, a Polish Roma, says attacks on his people are organised (Reuters) Roman Kwiatkowski, a Polish Roma, says attacks on his people are organised (Reuters)
In Andrychow last month, a pregnant Roma woman was attacked as she walked in the street. Soon after, two young ethnic Poles were beaten up in what many residents assumed was a Roma revenge attack.

Anger erupted. Supporters of the local football club, Beskid Andrychow, set up a page on Facebook. It published accounts of what it said were violent attacks by Roma, and photographs of ethnic Poles it said had been beaten up. The page has now been “liked” by 14,182 people. One post read: “We’re not going to sit quietly and pretend that everything is OK. We are shouting long and loud: enough of Gypsy impunity!”

The Roma community said the patrols by football fans were still going on at weekends. They now only go out at night to get essentials from the shops, and then, never alone. One man, Rafal Strauss, said the community had started keeping their children home from school. Two Roma woman said they had heard that ethnic Poles in at least local two apartment blocks had submitted petitions to the city authorities asking that Roma neighbours be moved out – an assertion that could not be verified.

Another Roma man, Mieczyslaw Pankowski, said he was now too scared to take his  seven-year-old disabled daughter for treatment in a nearby town and the family lived in fear of attacks at night: “We take it in turns to keep watch,” he said. “We’re frightened to go to sleep in case someone throws a bottle through the window.”

Party officials from Jobbik and Ruch Narodowy – an umbrella organisation for far-right groups – said that the events in Andrychow were a spontaneous, grassroots upsurge of anger. The politicians were only there to help, they said.

But they acknowledge that the example of how Jobbik grew on the back of anti-Roma sentiment may have been an influence. “I think that the organisers may have viewed certain successes in Hungary as an inspiration,” said  Winnicki.

Events in Andrychow indicate that Jobbik – snubbed even by many west European far-right parties as anti-Semitic and racist – is spreading its ideology beyond Hungary’s borders, in this case to Poland – by far the biggest and most influential ex-Soviet bloc state in the European Union.

Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks