Judas effigy controversy: Polish town slammed over 'atrocious revival of medieval anti-Semitism'

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By Chris Harris  with AFP/Reuters
Credit: Hubert Lewkowicz / AFP
Credit: Hubert Lewkowicz / AFP

A town in Poland has been criticised after locals beat and burned a Judas effigy that was made to look like a stereotypical Orthodox Jew.

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) said the Good Friday ritual in Pruchnik was an “atrocious revival of medieval anti-Semitism”.

Polish media published videos and photos of residents — including children — beating the effigy, before decapitating it and throwing it in the river. The figure had a big red nose and Orthodox-style ringlets.

“Jews are deeply disturbed by this ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism that led to unimaginable violence and suffering,” said Robert Singer, WJC’s CEO.

“We can only hope that the Church and other institutions will do their best to overcome these frightful prejudices which are a blot on Poland's good name.”

Poland’s Catholic Church expressed its disapproval at the ritual in Pruchnik and said it violates human dignity.

More than three million Polish Jews were murdered during World War II. Overall, six million Jews were slain in death camps in Nazi Germany-occupied Poland and killing fields in the former Soviet Union.

Poland, which has been ruled since 2015 by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), pulled out of a planned summit in Israel in February after Israel's acting foreign minister said many Poles had collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two and shared responsibility for the Holocaust.

The government has made what it saw as the defence of national honour over its wartime record a cornerstone of foreign policy.

Tensions between Israel and Poland rose last year after Poland introduced new legislation that would have made the use of phrases such as "Polish death camps" punishable by up to three years in prison.

After pressure from the United States and an outcry in Israel, Poland watered down the legislation, scrapping the prison sentences.