Court decisions reinstated the registration of one Jewish religious community and upheld the legitimacy of security measures that infringed on religious dress. Prosecutors pursued some cases of anti-Semitic speech, while discontinuing investigations into others. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) said law enforcement officials continued to improve their performance in investigating anti-Semitic incidents, but often failed to identify the perpetrators. There were complaints, especially by the Jewish community, that the government was proceeding slowly in communal property restitution cases.
In October a panel of the Polish Supreme Administrative Court affirmed the right of the Union of Progressive Jewish Communities in Poland (Beit Polska) to exist by instructing the lower court to reverse a decision that would have led to the deregistration of all Progressive communities. The suit had been brought by another Jewish organization.
Some government practices continued to reflect customs of the Catholic Church. Crucifixes were displayed in both the upper and lower houses of parliament, as well as in many other public buildings, including public school classrooms.
On September 17, the Supreme Court rejected the final appeal of a Sikh who had said his religious freedom was violated when a border guard asked him to remove his turban during an airport security check. The Supreme Court stated security inspections at the airport always involved the infringement of rights, and everyone, regardless of religion, had to accept such an infringement.
By the end of September, the property commissions had resolved approximately 6,600 of just over 10,500 communal property claims. Approximately 100 claims were resolved during the year. The commission handling Jewish communal property claims had partially or entirely resolved 2,482 of the 5,554 claims the Jewish community had submitted by its 2002 filing deadline. The commission handling Lutheran property claims had partially or entirely resolved 982 of the 1,200 claims filed by its 1996 filing deadline. The commission handling Orthodox Church restitution had partially or entirely resolved 256 of 472 claims filed by 2005, and the property commission for all other denominations had partially or entirely resolved 76 out of 170 claims. The deadline for filing claims was 1998 for all other denominations except the Baptist Church and the Protestant Reformed Church, which could file claims through 2006. Previously resolved were 2,847 claims by the Catholic Church.
Critics said the laws on communal property restitution did not address the issue of communal properties to which private third parties had title, and the government left several controversial and complicated cases unresolved. In a number of cases, buildings and residences were built on land that included Jewish cemeteries destroyed during or after World War II. The Jewish community continued to complain that the pace of Jewish communal property restitution was slow.
On October 4, prior to the Constitutional Court decision in December overturning the prohibition on religious slaughter, animal rights activists had appealed the local Sokolka prosecutor’s decision to discontinue an investigation into ritual slaughter performed by Chief Mufti of Poland Tomasz Miskiewicz in October 2013 to mark the start of Eid al-Adha. The prosecutor had discontinued the investigation on the grounds the religious slaughter had caused “minimal social harm” and constituted an integral part of a Muslim religious holiday. The prosecutor had also discontinued an investigation into the disruption by animal rights activists of the October 2013 ceremony, stating the behavior of the animal activists did not constitute a prohibited act.
NGOs said law enforcement officials continued to improve their performance in investigating anti-Semitic incidents, but often failed to identify the perpetrators. Groups such as the All-Polish Youth, the National Rebirth of Poland, the Polish National Party, and the neo-fascist Red Watch espoused anti-Semitic views, but authorities were not able to link any of them to specific incidents of violence or vandalism.
On January 3, the prosecutor’s office in Kielce obtained an indictment of a man on charges of publicly offending a person on the grounds of his Jewish identity, and promoting a fascist regime. In an incident six months earlier, the perpetrator had described a local businessman as a “Jewish scoundrel” on the internet.
On January 9, the prosecutor’s office in Bialystok-South decided not to initiate an investigation into an anti-Semitic public statement made by one of the participants of the November 2013 Independence March in Warsaw, who had referred to police officers as “Jewish whores.” The prosecutor stated it was not a legally prohibited act.
On February 11, the Gdansk appellate court upheld the June 2013 verdict of the Gdansk local court declaring that heavy metal singer Adam Darski was not guilty of offending religious feelings when he destroyed a Bible and called the Catholic Church a “criminal sect” during a 2007 concert. The appellate court stated Darski did not offend the religious feelings of persons who had filed the suit against him, as he did not intend for individuals who did not attend the concert to watch its recording, and those who had brought the suit against him had only watched a recording of the performance.
On September 10, the Warsaw district court accepted for consideration a complaint by then-Foreign Minister Sikorski about the prosecutor’s decision to discontinue investigating anti-Semitic comments posted on the internet in 2011 about the minister and his family. Earlier, in June, the district prosecutor’s office had discontinued the investigation for the third time.
On October 2, the Poznan prosecutor’s office discontinued its investigation into an incident at a September 2013 soccer match in Poznan. During the game, a group of fans of the Lech Poznan club had shouted anti-Semitic slogans at the RTS Widzew Lodz soccer team and its fans. The prosecutor’s office decided the slogans referred to the Holocaust and should be considered incitement to hatred on the grounds of national differences. Prosecutors failed to identify the individuals who shouted these slogans, however, and discontinued the investigation.
On January 24, police arrested six persons accused of hanging anti-Semitic posters in Lublin. Four persons were placed in pretrial detention for two weeks. Five were charged with operating a criminal group promoting fascism and inciting hatred, while the sixth person was charged as an accomplice to the crime. One of the six arrested was an employee of the Majdanek Museum, a former German concentration camp, who was immediately suspended from work.
On June 6, the disciplinary court at the prosecutor general’s office decided not to punish a Bialystok local prosecutor who refused to open an investigation into swastikas painted on electrical transformers in 2013. The local prosecutor had said that the swastika was a symbol of happiness and prosperity in Asia; his refusal to prosecute had led to a public outcry. The case was reopened after the outcry, but closed again without identification of the perpetrator.
On June 16, the Gdansk local court issued a verdict against a 19-year-old perpetrator who had spray-painted several swastikas on the door of the Gdansk synagogue. The investigation also revealed the individual was responsible for stealing five bicycles and counterfeiting a signature. The court sentenced the perpetrator to two years’ imprisonment suspended for five years, payment of 6,400 zloty ($1,822) for the renovation of damaged historical sites, and return of the stolen bicycles to their legitimate owners. It also ordered the individual to apologize to the Jewish community for painting swastikas on the synagogue.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews opened in October. The government and the city of Warsaw continued to fund the museum’s operating budget.
In February the deputy speaker of the parliament hosted the opening ceremony of an anti-discrimination exhibit, “Let’s Kick Racism out of the Stadiums,” which showcased the multi-cultural history of Polish soccer, including the contributions of Jewish players, and illustrated the persistent problem of anti-Semitism, among other discriminatory practices.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.