Antisemitism in Poland

by Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

    In 2018, after the introduction of Poland’s contested Holocaust law, Jews faced a wave of antisemitism. The law aimed at legally prohibiting statements accusing Poland of collaboration with the Nazis (Santora, 2018). Due to the international protest, the Polish government decided to weaken the Holocaust law by amending the punishments in case of violations of the law; the amended Holocaust law refrains from a three-year prison sentence (Zeit Online, 2018). In Poland, antisemitic beliefs are adopted both by people with poor educational backgrounds and by people with high educational backgrounds (Krzeminski, 2002, p. 25). Even young people agree with antisemitic ideas. A study of 566 young poles conducted in 2011 showed that “more than 30% of young Poles think that Jews abuse Polish feelings of guilt” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813). Antisemitism is represented in the left and right political spectrum (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 831). However, studies have shown that a significant percentage of voters of the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the conservative-nationalist party (PSL) share antisemitic attitudes (Zuk, 2017, p. 85). The scholar Werner Bergman (2008) also claims that antisemitism is highly correlated with right-wing national attitudes which can be illustrated by the fear about the Holocaust’s negative repercussions on the national prestige and self-confidence (p. 358). Furthermore, he evokes that “the Holocaust and the collaboration of certain sections of the nation during the Nazi persecution were initially suppressed from public consciousness after 1945 in Eastern European countries” (Bergmann, 2008, p. 359). Bergman (2008) emphasizes that the Holocaust was first addressed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, so that the country started struggling with questions about the national self-identification and self-esteem after 1989 (p. 359).  Before the Second World War, more than three million Jews lived in Poland. However, after the Holocaust, only a small number of Jewish survivors and repatriates remained in the country (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2802). Despite the small size of the Jewish community, there is an increase in antisemitism. Some scholars call this phenomenon “anti-Semitism without Jews” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.823). The question thus arises why this phenomenon is still so prevalent in a country which faced the cruelties of the Holocaust and in which Jews only represent a small ethnic minority.

    There are different forms of antisemitism in Poland. The most widespread form is modern antisemitism which is rather secular form of antisemitism and appears to be a relic from the political ideology of the Polish nationalist movement. It comprises secondary antisemitism (claiming that Jews themselves are responsible for antisemitism) and Jewish conspiracy theories (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.823).  Secondary antisemites are “willing to forget about the Holocaust and actively oppose compensation or restitution to the victims” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813)

    Different theories seek to explain the causes of antisemitism in Poland. Some scholars highlight situational aspects such as crisis or deprivation that promote antisemitic beliefs (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 824). The relative deprivation theory puts forward that ethnic prejudice results from a group’s “subjective perception of lower group status” (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p.236). The ideological model of scapegoating developed by Peter Glick, however, claims that in times of “shared frustration”, people are more prone to ideologies that blame certain groups as responsible for the situation (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p. 236). People who feel underprivileged are often frustrated and try to find someone they could blame for. Conspiracy beliefs provide a scapegoat, so that they can express their frustration in the aggression against the chosen scapegoat, which is in the Polish case the Jewish community (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p. 242). Bilewicz, Winiewski and Radzik suggest that antisemitism not only has a scapegoating function for post-transitional problems, but also “allows the denial of the responsibility of historical crimes towards Jews” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2817). However, some studies proved that personality factors such as authoritarianism and nationalism are better at predicting antisemitism than situational factors such as financial or economic crisis (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 825).  Scholars putting forward the concept of competitive victimhood to explain antisemitism, suggest that if national identification is based on ideas moral superiority and a victimization history, people within this group are more likely to deny that other groups might also share the status of historical victimhood (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.286). Competitive victimhood thus diminishes the capacity to feel empathy towards people outside of their own group (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813). Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik (2012) suggest that especially relative victimhood (“the perception that Poles were more victimized in the past than the Jews”) fuels antisemitism in Poland (p. 2813). Other scholars explained anti-Semitism in Poland with the help of the idea of collective narcissism. According to Golec de Zavala and Cichocka (2011), collective narcissism leads to antisemitism as it provokes a negative stereotyping of Jews within the non-Jewish society. The concept of collective narcissism implies that the members of a group (in-group members) develop the perception of vulnerability to external threats from out-group members which is deemed to be hostile (p. 359). Out-group members (in the Polish case, Jews) are negatively stereotyped and due to the increasing amount of stereotypes and prejudices, antisemitic ideas are fuelled. 

    In conclusion, there are situational, personality factors, and identity-related factors which might explain the phenomenon of antisemitism in Poland. However, the phenomenon appears to be very exceptional due to the fact that only a very small minority of Jews lives in Poland. The increase in antisemitism definitely raises questions about democratic values, the dealing with the past and societal values and norms.  

Photo by Erica Magugliani on Unsplash


Bergmann, W. (2008). Anti‐Semitic attitudes in Europe: A comparative perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 64(2), 343-362.

Bilewicz, M., & Krzeminski, I. (2010). Anti-Semitism in Poland and Ukraine: The belief in Jewish control as a mechanism of scapegoating. International Journal of Conflict and Violence (IJCV), 4(2), 234-243.

Bilewicz, M., Winiewski, M., & Radzik, Z. (2012). Antisemitism in Poland: Economic, Religious, and Historical Aspects. Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, 4, 2801.

Bilewicz, M., Winiewski, M., Kofta, M., & Wójcik, A. (2013). Harmful Ideas, The Structure and Consequences of Anti‐Semitic Beliefs in Poland. Political Psychology, 34(6), 821-839.

Golec de Zavala, A., & Cichocka, A. (2012). Collective narcissism and anti-Semitism in Poland. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 15(2), 213-229.

Krzemiński, I. (2002). Polish-Jewish relations, anti-Semitism and national identity. Polish Sociological Review, 25-51.

Santora, M. (2018, February 7). Poland’s President Supports Making Some Holocaust Statements a Crime. The New York Times. Retrieved from 

Zeit online. (2018, June, 27). Polnische Regierung Entschärft Umstrittenes Holocaust-Gesetz. Retrieved from

Żuk, P. (2017). Anti-Semitism in Poland, yesterday and today. Race & Class, 58(3), 81-86

The EU and Coronabonds – What comes after the pandemic?

by Lea Schiller

The COVID-19 pandemic has left the European Union a region that is not only hit differently by the virus, but also dealing with diverse economic outlooks. Some countries went into a strict shutdown for months and others started relaxing their measures after just a few weeks. Bound together in the European Union, these countries now have to find a way to keep the region from spiralling into a recession – and provide financial support for the states hardest hit.

In early April, after three days of difficult negotiations, the Council of Ministers decided on a €540 billion relief package – but this is far from where the story ends. For one, experts are suggesting the EU might need another €500 billion to mitigate the effects of the shutdowns. And for another, not all member states are happy with the initial package.

“Italy doesn’t need the ESM,” was Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s comment on the decision, effectively refusing €39 billion in aid. Next to support for installing short-time work and loans from the European Investment Bank, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was decided to be the third part of the EU’s relief package. First installed in 2012, its purpose is to support member states who are highly in debt – but its money is bound to strict conditions. Italy’s Five-Star Movement had threatened to end the coalition government should Conte say yes to the ESM – out of fear the country would be put under similar controls as Greece was during the debt crisis. Regardless of the fact that the EU had abandoned all conditions that are usually bound to the ESM out of respect for Italy’s difficult situation, and against initial resistance from the Netherlands.

But Italy is not the only country that wants to move away from the ESM, and install the so-called Coronabonds instead. Next to Italy, France has also expressed their support, with Macron telling the British media that they were “necessary” as otherwise eurosceptic populists in Italy, France and elsewhere would win. Their support has been met with heavy resistance from the northern countries, particularly the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Finland, which sparked a debate that Conte warned could threaten the existence of the bloc.

“Coronabonds” are essentially the new application of an old idea: joint debt that would be collectively guaranteed.  Which would, as countries like Italy are hoping, lead to lower borrowing costs and more favourable terms. But on the other side, the northern countries are hesitating to sign loans for countries whose spending they cannot control – fearing it will lead to their taxpayers paying the bill; with neither side ready to give, which way the EU will go is still uncertain. And during the summit on the 23rd of April, the European Council passed the initial relief package that was put forward by the EU’s finance ministers – putting the topic of a recovery fund in the form of Coronabonds off for another day.

Photo by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash


Investigate Europa (2020, March 23). Widersprüchlicher Umgang mit dem Virus: Wie die EU in der Coronakrise versagt. Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved from

Brenton, H. (2020, April 19). EU needs extra 500 billion for recovery, says eurozone bailout fund chief. Politico. Retrieved from

Coronavirus-Hilfen: Italien sagt Nein zu 39 Milliarden der EU. (2020, April 14). Tagesschau. Retrieved from

Koch, M. (2020, April 17). Coronabonds: Macron und EU-Parlament erhöhen Druck auf Deutschland. Handelsblatt. Retrieved from

Boffey, D. (2020, April 9). EU strikes €500bn relief deal for countries hit hardest by pandemic. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Einigung der EU-Finanzminster: 500 Milliarden gegen die Corona-Krise. (2020, April 10). Tagesschau. Retrieved from

The Aegean Sea: Disputes between the Greek and Turkish worlds

By André Francischetti Moreno

According to the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (HNFGS), on December 17th of 2019 Turkish fighter jets F-16s invaded the Greek airspace forty times, even entering the Athens Flight Information Region without submitting flight plans or asking for an authorization. These violations led to 16 mock dogfights, which were already proven lethal in other interception attempts by Greek forces in the past 19 years of invasions. The relationship between the two NATO allies went through moments of sympathy and animosity throughout history. Notably, moments of tensions took place during the Turkish War of Independence and the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Nevertheless, a great feeling of partnership was seen, for instance, in the summer of 1999, when a terrible earthquake hit both countries and several measures of solidarity and reciprocity improved Greco-Turkish relations in what would be known as the earthquake diplomacy. This feeling was extended until the early 2010s, with the approximation between Turkey and the European Union. Nevertheless, from there onwards substantial diplomatic differences came up between Greece and Turkey, and in 2018 the deterioration in their diplomatic relations became rougher.

The delimitation of economic zones, territorial waters and national airspace are at the heart of the tensions. In addition, Turkey claims sovereignty over a myriad of islets off its southwestern coast. The vehemence of the topic is due to the overwhelming number of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. In particular, Turkey´s complaints regard a chain of Greek islands lined up along the Turkish west coast blocking the latter from extending its zone of influence. It is important to highlight that both territorial waters and airspace are measured from the nearest inhabited territory, and thus influence zones are critical when it comes to securing partial control over shipping, full control over the airspace above, and exclusive right to economic exploitation of resources on and under the seabed. Due toTurkey´s strategic importance to the European Union in anti-terrorism policies, migration containment and as a NATO ally, the transcontinental country only suffered mild economic sanctions of the European Union over the past months in protest against President Erdogan´s violations of human rights and over what the EU sees as Turkish interference with Cyprus´ EEZs.

The concern of European leaders regarding Erdogan´s decisions got higher at the end of 2019. In December, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accused Turkey of not abiding by the EU 2016 refugee agreement, as the number of migrants coming through Turkey to the already worrisome Greek refugee camps dramatically enlarged. Whereas at a ceremony on the 27th  November in Istanbul, the UN-recognized government of Libya, at odds with its parliament, and Turkey signed a security accord and a memorandum understanding on the demarcation of maritime jurisdiction areas, aiming at gas and oil exploration and production in the region. Moreover, after President Erdogan said that he would send ships to drill for energy off Crete in the coming months, Vice- President Fuat Okay declared that military forces could be sent into the East Mediterranean. The EU Parliament issued a statement arguing that not only the memorandum is arbitrary and geographically questionable, however it also ignores the sovereign rights of Cyprus. Furthermore, as Italy and France have high stakes in the region because of the activities of ENI and Total in the gas drills off Cyprus, they agreed together with the Cypriot army to perform a joint naval exercise in Cyprus´ EEZs.

Hubert Faustmann, professor in the University of Nicosia and Cyprus director of the Bonn-based Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, said that Ankara´s agreement with Libya was a tactic to delay the multi-billion-dollar EastMed gas pipeline project planned by Greece, Israel, Italy and Cyprus, as it would cross maritime zones claimed by Ankara. The EastMed project would make of the involved countries a vital link to Europe’s energy supply chain, and Turkey holds its key as it can block any agreement by fostering its military, navy and air force capabilities in Northern Cyprus. According to the professor, “Turkey´s strategy is to create grey zones and disputes territories within the economic exclusive zones claimed by Cyprus and also Greece.” It is worth remembering that Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, and claims Nicosia´s gas and oil exploration areas.

In response to the memorandum, Greece and Egypt are speeding up the demarcation of their territorial waters, while the European Council reaffirmed its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. The EU issued soft sanctions over Turkish energy ships drilling off Cyprus and the Cypriot government received international warrants for the crews arrest but did not enforce them. Furthermore, Greece is trying to isolate Turkey internationally, forcing the annulment of the Turkish-Libyan accords, expelling Libya´s ambassador, looking at making an official complaint to the UN and requiring a meeting of EU leaders to condemn Turkey´s actions. In spite of being backed by Russia, Israel, Egypt, EU countries and the United States, the Greek Defense Minister stated that “if it came down to a fight in the Aegean, we shall not wait for anyone to come and help us… Whatever we do, we shall do alone.” Turkey, in turn, defends that the memorandum is in accordance with international law and that Cyprus and Egypt issued a similar document in 2015. Moreover, it uses its army, geo-political importance and cooperation towards migration control as leverage against Europe. Charles Ellinas, an Atlantic Council senior associate, however, believes Turkey has nothing to gain from escalating military moves in Cyprus.

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash


A ‘secret war’ between Turkey and Greece just turned deadly after a long history of dogfights over the Aegean Sea. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Admin. (2019, July 12). EU threatens Turkey with sanctions over Cyprus drilling. Retrieved from

Aegean dispute. (2020, February 23). Retrieved from

Al Jazeera. (2019, December 13). Turkey flexes muscle as Greece and EU stick to international law. Retrieved from

Brzozowski, A. (2019, October 11). Greece calls for more NATO ships to patrol Aegean Sea following Turkey’s Syria offensive. Retrieved from

Gotev, G. (2020, January 20). Turkey targets ‘weakest link’ Cyprus in regional dominance bid. Retrieved from

Greece says Turkey not abiding by EU refugee agreement: (n.d.). Retrieved from

McCarthy, N. (2015, November 27). Turkish Jets Violated Greek Airspace Over 2,000 Times Last Year [Infographic]. Retrieved from

Memorandum of Understanding between Turkey and Libya on Maritime Borders. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Michalopoulos, S. (2019, December 11). Greece seeks EU’s diplomatic shield against Turkey at Council. Retrieved from

Tnh. (2019, December 19). Turkish Fighter Jets Invade Greek Airspace, 16 Mock Dogfights Ensue (Adds). Retrieved from

Tnh. (2019, December 10). Greece Wants EU Full-Court Press on Turkey, EU Backs Off. Retrieved from

A Comparison Between Right-Wing Populist Parties in Eastern and Western Europe

By Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

In Western Europe right-wing populist parties are less influential than in Eastern Europe, but their popularity is continuously rising. During the last French presidential elections in 2017, for example, Marine le Pen from the right-wing populist party FN (Front National) progressed to the second-round run-off against president Emanuel Macron (Eiermann, Mounk & Gultchin, 2017, p. 9). Why are right-wing populist parties so successful in Eastern and Western Europe?

In states like Poland and Hungary right-wing populist parties are increasingly expanding their power and seem to be more anti-democratic at least in comparison with Western European populist parties (Allen, 2017, p. 277). They violate basic democratic principles as judicial independence and freedom of the press. However, the continuous destruction of the media is not only on the agenda of Eastern European populists, but also part of the policy of Western European populist parties (Eiermann, Mounk & Gultchin, 2017, p. 7). The effectiveness of Eastern European populist parties is particularly visible as populist parties were able to promote an anti-Muslim propaganda even if these countries were almost unaffected by Muslim immigration (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 31). Why were populist right-wing parties as PIS (Poland) and Fidesz (Hungary) so successful with their anti-Muslim rhetoric? Throughout history post-communist countries experienced not only threats to their territorial integrity, but also threats to their national integrity. These insecurities concerning their sovereignty contributed to an increased fear of the loss of national identity. Since that time, populist right-wing parties were able to easily manipulate people psychologically with the help of these consolidated fears. This also explains why these parties were able to easily mobilise against minorities as the Roma or the Jews (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 30). The refugee crisis in 2015 was thus an ideal tool to promote an anti-Muslim propaganda even though these countries were almost unaffected by Muslim immigration. Particularly in this case the influence and power of the right-wing parties is very extreme as even in the absence of terrorism and immigrants, fears were easily fuelled by the populists. With the help of the anti-Muslim rhetoric populist right-wing parties as PIS (Poland) and Fidesz (Hungary) successfully secured their power in government. They effectively capitalised from the people’s historically consolidated fears (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 31).

In Western European countries right-wing populist parties are also on the rise. In Western Europe, their success lies amongst others in the voter’s political frustration. In the view of the electorate that turned to populist parties, traditional parties were unable to deal with current political challenges as for example immigration and European integration. The disenchanted electorate is therefore more prone to accept the radical solutions proposed by populist right-wing parties (Albertazzi & McDonnell, 2007, p.1).

Interestingly, the most successful populist parties are those which effectively employ the rhetoric of democracy. Therefore, populist parties try to justify discriminatory policies with the claim to defend Western values. This rhetoric adaption plays an important role in their attempt to appear as a mainstream party (Halikiopoulou, 2018, p. 2). Part of this strategy is also the promotion of direct democracy, including the idea of a referendum, for example. In this manner, right-wing populist parties claim to promote the will of the people. The longevity of a party generally depends on the party’s success to recruit potential voters. For this reason, the talent of the party leader to persuade and socialise sympathisers represents a crucial factor. Socially disadvantaged groups generally represent an important target group (Pauwels, 2014, p. 7). However, different populist parties attract different social classes. Some right-wing parties mainly focus on the lower-class whereas others focus on the middle-class (Betz, 1993, p. 676).

Overall, right-wing populist parties differ significantly with regard to their rhetoric, target group, ideology and agenda (Halikiopoulou, 2018, p. 3). Due to their disrespect for minorities, pluralism and the rule of law, populism is essentially illiberal (Mudde, 2016, p. 28). A very important shared trait is their exclusionary agenda and their claim to fight for the will of the people (Immerzeel & Muis , 2017, p. 910). The reasons for the popularity of right-wing populist parties are slightly different in Eastern and Western European countries. In Western Europe, the popularity of right-wing populist parties lies in the voter’s political frustration whereas in Eastern Europe, right-wing populist parties are particularly successful due to their anti-Muslim rhetoric which effectively fuels historically consolidated fears.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash


Albertazzi, D., & McDonnell, D. (Eds.) (2007). Twenty-first century populism: The specter of Western European democracy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Allen, T. J. (2017). All in the party family? Comparing far right voters in Western and Post-Communist Europe. Party Politics, 23(3), 274-285.
Betz, H. G. (1993). The two faces of radical right-wing populism in Western Europe. The Review of Politics, 55(4), 663-686.
Eiermann, M., Mounk, Y., & Gultchin, L. (2017). European populism: Trends, threats and future prospects. Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
Halikiopoulou, D. (2018). A right-wing populist momentum? A review of 2017 elections across Europe. Journal of Common Market Studies
Kende, A., & Krekó, P. (2020). Xenophobia, prejudice, and right-wing populism in East-Central Europe. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 29-33.
Mudde, C. (2016). Europe’s populist surge. A long time in the making. Foreign affairs, 95(6), 25-30.
Muis, J., & Immerzeel, T. (2017). Causes and consequences of the rise of populist radical right parties and movements in Europe. Current Sociology, 65(6), 909-930
Pauwels, T. (2014). Populism in Western Europe: Comparing Belgium, Germany and the Netherland, New York: Routledge