Poland outraged after neo-Nazis ‘mark Hitler’s birthday’

Warsaw (AFP) – A television report shot with a hidden camera showing members of a Polish far-right group celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday sparked uproar on Monday, in a country still grappling with the memory of Nazi occupation.

The alarming footage, filmed in southwestern Poland and aired on news channel TVN24, shows a group of men wearing Nazi-inspired uniforms and performing Nazi salutes.

Among those caught on camera was a man identified as Mateusz S., the leader of neo-Nazi group Pride and Modernity (DN).

He appears to have been speaking at an event marking 128 years since the birth of Nazi dictator Adolf Hilter, held on a hill near the southwestern Polish village of Wodzislaw on an undisclosed date. 

Undercover journalists also filmed large red flags with Nazi swastikas hanging on the trees and an altar with a portrait of Hitler.

Participants in the event set fire to a large wooden swastika soaked in flammable liquid that was fixed to a tree as they played a soundtrack of Nazi military marches.

The footage was broadcast on TVN24’s “Superwizjer” current affairs programme which also included clips from an ultranationalist rock festival in March 2017 involving both Poles and Germans, with swastikas or the initials SS tattooed on their bodies.

– ‘No tolerance’ –

Poland’s rightwing Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki took to Twitter to condemn 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.

“There is no tolerance for these kinds of behaviours and symbols,” he added.

World War II erupted when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. 

Some six million Polish citizens, half of whom were Jewish, perished under the Nazi occupation that lasted until 1945.

Lawmakers from Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party on Monday urged the interior minister to outline plans to combat neo-Nazi groups.

Prosecutors in the region where the far-right event took place said there was an investigation under way.

Totalitarian ideologies like fascism and ethnic or racial hatred are banned in Poland, and carry a penalty of up to two years behind bars.

In November, PiS leaders spoke out against xenophobia after a controversial Independence Day march organised by far-right and nationalist groups that drew 60,000 participants and a chorus of condemnation from around the globe.

While many marchers denied membership of or sympathy for extreme right groups, the event also drew representatives of far-right parties from across Europe.

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