Poland's new defence minister has been called on to apologise after suggesting that an infamous anti-Semitic forgery alleging a conspiracy for world Jewish domination may actually be true. Antoni Macierewicz was appointed to the position by theLaw and Justice party on Monday (9 November), after the right wing party secured a parliamentary majority for the first time in its history following elections on 25 October.
Macierewicz said in an interview on Radio Maryja in 2002 that he had read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document purporting to outline Jewish plans for domination of the global economy and the media, but exposed as a hoax believed to have been fabricated by the Tsarist secret police in the early 1900s. While acknowledging the debate over the authenticity of the document, Macierewicz said: "Experience shows that there are such groups in Jewish circles."
"While that statement [by Macierewicz] was made many years ago, it indicates profound and virulent anti-Semitism," Anti-Defamation League chief Jonathan Greenblatt wrote to the incoming Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
"We trust that you would not allow anyone of such convictions to be a member of your government," Greenblatt added.
The incident is described in Rafal Pankowski's 2010 book The Populist Radical Right In Poland. Pankowski told The Guardian "The political culture of Law And Justice seems strongly influenced by such discourse. It is a sad time for Polish and European democracy if the promotion of conspiracy theories is rewarded with high-level appointments."
Macierewicz led anti-Communist purges in Poland in the 1990s, accusing a series of political figures of working for the secret police. Among those he accused was Lech Walesa, whose Solidarity movement helped to bring down the Iron Curtain.
In recent years, Macierewicz has been one of the most prominent defenders of a conspiracy theory that a 2010 plane crash that killed the then Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 96 others was an assassination orchestrated by Russia, with the involvement of Germany and Polish moderates, despite an official investigation finding it was an accident.
"The government headed by [Russia's then prime minister Vladimir] Putin is fully responsible for this tragedy," he told the European Parliament in March.
"It may be said that it was the first salvo in a war which today is going on in the east of Europe, and which is ever more dramatically nearing EU and Nato borders."
Russian investigators blamed pilot error, while Polish investigators also said that airport crew were responsible.
Critics believe that Macierewicz's appointment may complicate Poland's relationship with Nato, the EU and its neighbour, Russia.
Law and Justiice is the first party in post-Communist Poland to win an absolute majority in parliament. It came to power on a Eurosceptic and nationalistic platform.
Krzysztof Izdebski, the chairman of Council of The Union of Jewish Communities in Warsaw defended Wacierewicz. He told the Jerusalem Post he recognised Macierewicz "accepts with no doubts that the Protocols were false". He added: "We appreciate that accusations of being anti-Semitic are quickly met with the proper response which proves that there is a general attitude of condemning anti-Semitism."