WARSAW (Reuters) – The World Jewish Congress has condemned as anti-Semitic the revival of a folk tradition of burning an effigy of Judas in the Polish town of Pruchnik.
A video published by local website expressjaroslawski.pl showed several dozen locals watching on as an effigy of the disciple Judas was beaten and burned.
The tradition, first reported in the 18th century, was revived on the Christian holiday of Good Friday in the southeastern town of Pruchnik after several years, expressjaroslawski.pl said. In the past the Catholic church has banned the practice over the aggression involved.
“Jews are deeply disturbed by this ghastly revival of medival anti-Semitism that led to unimaginable violence and suffering,” Jewish congress CEO Robert Singer said in a statement posted on the organisation’s website on Sunday.
“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.”
More than 3 million of a population of 3.2 million Jews were murdered by Nazis in the Holocaust. Many Poles refuse to accept research showing thousands of their countrymen participated in the Holocaust in addition to thousands of others who risked their lives to help Jews.
Poland, 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.
(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; editing by David Evans)