Leader of Poland’s largest political party honors victims of synagogue burning

The leader of the largest political party in Poland took part in ceremonies commemorating the burning of a synagogue in Bialystok during the Holocaust.

In his speech at the Great Synagogue of Bialystok, Jaroslaw Kaczynski stressed German responsibility for the Holocaust, the dangers of anti-Semitism, and the need for cooperation with Israel.

“The Holocaust was the fault of the German state and the German people who supported Adolf Hitler,” said Kaczynski during Monday’s ceremony. “German elite were unable to get into any real opposition.”

On June 27, 1941, German troops marched into Bialystok murdering some 2,500 Jews. About one thousand Jews were burned alive in the city’s synagogue.

Kaczynski, who is a leader of the Law and Justice Party, stressed that the representatives of the other nations of Europe, including Poles, also committed crimes during the war, but it would not have been possible without the aggression of Germany. He also stressed that in Europe today there is a new anti-Semitism directed against Israel.

“We have to keep talking about what leads to anti-Semitism in any form, including the present day, hidden under the term anti-Zionism,” he said.

Poem: Like a Miracle

And still it is beautiful as a miracle
This rosy twig of lilac…
Even in our days
of evil, terror and dread.

Even in our street
when hate swells grand with khutspa
the little lilac twig stretches out
to you and to me like a miracle…

Zusman Segalovitch (1884-1948) was born in Bialystok, Russian Poland, to a family of rabbis. He began writing in Russian, then Yiddish. After the pogrom in Bialystok in 1904, he moved with his parents to Lodz, where he published many well-received poems. In 1939, he left Warsaw on the same railroad car as other Yiddish writers. He then wandered through Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Syria and arrived in Palestine (Israel) in 1941. There he published his famous poem of mourning, “Dortn” (“There”). He moved to New York in 1947 and died there a year later.

“Like a Miracle” is translated by Sarah Traister Moskovitz. It is part of the Ringelblum Archives.

Prosecutors probe kosher slaughter in Poland

Prosecutors in Poland are investigating reports of the kosher slaughter of cow, which may have violated Polish law.

The prosecutor began investigating the March 12 shechita, or kosher slaughter, of a cow in the north-eastern town of Tykocin after hearing about it from a county veterinarian in Bialystok.

Michael Schudrich, the Polish chief rabbi, called on the government to resolve the kosher slaughter issue soon.

“This case was not about preparing large quantities of meat for export but a small amount of meat to allow the Jews to fulfil the religious obligations of the Passover,” he said in a statement released on Thursday. “I would like Polish government to make decisions in this matter in the near future.”

The Polish agriculture ministry has said it will work to enshrine ritual slaughter in Polish legislation this year, which is designed to streamline the way that Polish procedures correspond with E.U. regulations that went into effect in January. The European Union has said individual countries will have discretion on whether to allow or ban ritual slaughter.

The status of ritual slaughter in Poland became unclear in November when a Polish court ruled that the government had acted unconstitutionally when it issued in 2004 a regulation exempting Jews and Muslims from stunning animals before slaughtering them, as their faiths require.

The Jewish community and some legal experts say that kosher slaughter remains protected by another law, the 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland, which states ritual slaughter may be performed in accordance with the needs of the local Jewish community.

Poland’s halal and kosher slaughter business is estimated to be worth $250 million annually, mainly owing to exports.

Another Jewish memorial vandalized in Poland

A Jewish memorial in eastern Poland was vandalized—the second time this month that a Jewish monument in the country was defaced.

The monument to a Jewish cemetery in Bialystok that no longer exists was attacked Sunday night, local police said Monday. The bushes forming a Star of David were rearranged into a Nazi swastika on the memorial’s site. Other bushes also were uprooted.

It is the latest in a string of attacks on minority sites in Bialystok that includes an arson attack on a Muslim cultural center, the defacement of Lithuanian road signs and graffiti scrawled on an 18th century synagogue, Reuters reported.

On Sept. 1, vandals defaced the monument in Jedwabne, Poland, that commemorates the hundreds of Jews burned alive in a barn there by their Polish neighbors in July 1941.