June 28, 2018 — Warsaw, Poland
Mayors of Polish cities, attending an AJC Central Europe and City of Warsaw conference on combating hate, have issued a joint statement urging implementation of a policy of “zero tolerance for prejudice, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.”
The statement, signed by the mayors of Bialystok, Gdańsk, Poznań, and Warsaw, prioritizes “promoting democratic values and acting for our civil rights,” vows to "use available legal instruments to ensure that crimes motivated by racial or religious hatred are not underestimated," pledges to “raise public awareness among city citizens, employees of municipal institutions and municipal law enforcement bodies,” and encourages other Polish mayors to join in the statement.
The AJC conference, “No to Hatred; Cities Facing Ethnic and Religious Prejudice,” explored “specific actions taken by the authorities of several largest Polish cities to build tolerance, solidarity and respect among their residents and how they counteract the attitudes and acts of hatred motivated by prejudice,” said AJC Central Europe Director Agnieszka Markiewicz.
Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, addressing the opening session, emphasized that the biggest challenge to combating hatred is the widespread insensitivity to aggressive behavior that results from prejudice: "We all got used to it,” said Gronkiewicz-Waltz, adding that while Europe is not yet in a situation akin to the 1930s, "that is exactly why it is necessary to respond to even small signs of hatred in order to prevent the return of the time of ovens."
Bialystok Mayor Tadeusz Truskolaski, Gdańsk Mayor Paweł Adamowicz, Poznań Mayor Jacek Jaśkowiak, and Warsaw Deputy Mayor Włodzimierz Paszyński participated in a panel discussion about their experiences combating anti-Semitism and other forms of hate in their communities.
The conference took place at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and was co-sponsored by the City of Warsaw. The 100 attendees included diplomats, members of Poland’s Parliament and city councils, and representatives of the Jewish community and other ethnic and religious minorities.
During the conference, Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs, attributed the growing sense of insecurity among Central European Jews to a rising crescendo of public hate speech and the still-unmastered trauma arising from the difficult history of the Holocaust.
Other speakers at the conference included POLIN Director Dariusz Stola and Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari.