Poland's right-wing government is under pressure to take vigorous action against far-right extremists following the emergence of a video showing neo-Nazis celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday.
The men were also seen burning a swastika while dressed in Nazi German uniforms.
Private news channel TVN24 revealed the disturbing event, where a neo-Nazi group, "Pride and Modernity," celebrated what would have been Hitler's 128th birthday in a wooded area in southwestern Poland last spring. They chanted “Sieg Heil," praised Hitler and burned a large swastika fixed to a tree as a soundtrack of Nazi military marches played in the background.
The same group was responsible for a protest last year, where pictures of centrist European Parliament lawmakers from Poland were hung on mock gallows in the city of Katowice.
The far-right participants at that protest humiliated the lawmakers and called them traitors to Poland for having voted against the Polish government in a resolution in the European Parliament over alleged rule of law violations and the government's response to an Independence Day march organized by far-right nationalists.
The disturbing report has caused uproar and shock in Poland —a country which was occupied by Germany during the Second World War and was subjected to widespread massacres and destruction.
Under Hitler’s ideology, Poles and other Slavs were considered sub-humans. But that was during the Second World War.
It's, however, disturbing to witness scenes of young Polish men praising a genocidal maniac.
Poland’s rightwing Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned the event, insisting that “promoting fascism or other totalitarian regimes is not only incompatible with Polish law.”
“Above all it tramples on the memory of our ancestors and their heroic struggle for a just and hate-free Poland,” he said. “There is no tolerance for these kinds of behaviours and symbols.”
Leader of Civic Platform, the largest opposition party in parliament, Grzegorz Schetyna, called for the neo-Nazi group to be criminalized. He accused the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party of allowing extremism to grow during its more than two years tenure in power.
The Law and Justice party has been accused of ignoring far-right excesses in hope to win votes. The party adopted an anti-Muslim, anti-refugee rhetoric, which is believed to be one of the factors leading to a rising number of reported attacks against people of color in Poland.
"The far right has felt emboldened in the last two years, which has been expressed in many street marches and racist attacks," said Rafal Pankowski, the head of Never Again, an organization that monitors and fights extremism.
"It's time for Polish leaders to condemn xenophobia and take concrete steps against it," Pankowski said. "I hope the recent statements by Prime Minister Morawiecki are just the beginning of a new attitude to the problem on the part of the ruling elite."
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