Skip to main content

Polish prosecutor: 'Auschwitz' football chants are not anti-Semitic

January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1449 GMT (2249 HKT)
Fans of Polish football club Lech Poznan fans were found not guilty of anti-Semitic chanting by a prosecutor. The club has vowed to eradicate anti-Semitism and says it is working to educate supporters. Fans of Polish football club Lech Poznan fans were found not guilty of anti-Semitic chanting by a prosecutor. The club has vowed to eradicate anti-Semitism and says it is working to educate supporters.
HIDE CAPTION
Acceptable chants?
Legia's legacy
Widespread problem
'Jihad' banner
Krakow rivalry
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Polish municipal officer rules that chants by Lech Poznan supporters not anti-Semitic
  • Club defends fans and says it is working to eradicate problem
  • Anti-Semitism in Polish football a widespread problem
  • Chanting condemned by European Jewish Congress

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- "Move on, Jews! Your home is at Auschwitz! Send you to the gas (chamber)!"

These are comments that you might expect to hear in 1940s Europe, but in 2014?

Apparently yes, according to a Polish municipal prosecutor in Poznan, who decided this week that chants by football fans are not criminal offenses.

The incident, which happened during a Polish league game between Lech Poznan and Widzew Lodz on September 29, 2013, has sparked debate over the country's attitude towards anti-Semitism.

"This case is being discussed a lot in Poland and rightly causing critique of the system and its decision," Polish football writer Michal Zachodny told CNN.

Racism in Football: Part 1
Racism in Football: Part 2
Racism in Football: Part 3

"Although the PZPN, the Polish Football Association, has introduced stricter laws and are more proactive in dealing with such problems than they were, there is no plan, no willingness to do anything with the problem.

"There is no special police line to report abuse anonymously."

PZPN did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

Prosecutor Monika Rutkowsk decided not to take any action against the Poznan fans on the grounds that their chants were directed at the opposing team and not specifically at Jews.

The team, Lech Poznan, said in a statement to CNN, "The club has already expressed its condemnation of this type of behavior and has fulfilled its obligations to the police and prosecutors."

"The club does not deal in the prosecution of groups of fans, because this is the task of the aforementioned police and prosecutors.

"One of the aims of the club is to educate its fans, to talk with them and eradicate certain issues. This approach has been in place at the club for many years."

Read: Racism in football will never be a thing of the past

World Sport Presents: Racism in Football
Why so few South Asian footballers?
Platini outlines UEFA's racism reforms

Anti-Semitism within Polish football is not a new phenomenon. In a country where some of the worst atrocities of the Holocaust were committed, the home of Auschwitz, this latest episode will be difficult for many outside of Poland to comprehend.

Widzew has often been often targeted because of its links to the Jewish community which was exterminated by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Known as a "Jewish club" in the same way as English team Tottenham Hotspur and Dutch side Ajax are, Widzew and the city's smaller club, LKS Lodz, are often taunted by rival team's fans.

Poland was home to the largest Jewish community in Europe before the Holocaust, when 90% of the country's 3.3 million Jews were killed by the Nazis. Today there are an estimated 25,000.

Moshe Kantor, the President of the European Jewish Congress, says the decision has consolidated a view that anti-Semitism is the "last acceptable prejudice in football."

"Unfortunately, extreme anti-Semitic chants like those in Poznan are regularly heard in many European stadiums, including in England and Holland, and the reaction of the authorities is minimal," Kantor said in a statement on the organization's website.

Read: Time to get tough on racism

The problems within Polish football are not confined to Poznan and Lodz -- Krakow and Warsaw witness similar incidents whenever those cities' clubs play each other.

Cracovia, a club founded by Jews in 1906, endures a hateful relationship with its Krakow city rival Wisla, which is driven by anti-Semitism.

Wisla's hardcore supporters, known as the "Anti Jude Gang," are infamous for their chanting and banners, even though the club has signed Jewish players in the past.

"It is naive to think that there isn't still an anti-Semitism problem in Poland, however the most worrying thing is that in some cases it clearly isn't seen as a problem at all," Ryan Hubbard of Ekstraklasa Magazine told CNN.

"The irony in some of these chants is that the perpetrators sometimes have Jewish players within their teams.

"Maor Melikson, an Israeli international, and his fellow countryman David "Dudu" Biton, played a massive part in Wisla Krakow's title success in 2010-11 -- Melikson even scoring the winner against rivals Cracovia, which won the title.

"But even since then, it isn't uncommon to hear these chants used in a derogatory way."

The frustration for many is that the authorities, including the PZPN, do not seem to be tackling the problem head on.

There are a number of stories of anti-Semitic banners being paraded in stadiums and similarly offensive t-shirts being sold outside venues.

England midfielder Danny Rose claims he was subjected to monkey chants before, during and after the second-leg of their Under-21 Euro 2013 playoff match against Serbia on Tuesday, and had stones thrown at him by the crowd in Krusevac. Fans also ran on to the pitch and scuffles broke out after a 1-0 win secured England qualification for Euro 2013. England midfielder Danny Rose claims he was subjected to monkey chants before, during and after the second-leg of their Under-21 Euro 2013 playoff match against Serbia on Tuesday, and had stones thrown at him by the crowd in Krusevac. Fans also ran on to the pitch and scuffles broke out after a 1-0 win secured England qualification for Euro 2013.
Serbia scuffles
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
Soccer racism in Eastern Europe Soccer racism in Eastern Europe
The Milan derby between Inter and AC is one of the stand out fixtures in world football, attracting a fierce atmosphere between city rivals who share the same San Siro stadium. The Milan derby between Inter and AC is one of the stand out fixtures in world football, attracting a fierce atmosphere between city rivals who share the same San Siro stadium.
Nerazzurri vs. Rossoneri
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
Derby day atmosphere dented? Derby day atmosphere dented?
Manchester City's Yaya Toure says he was subjected to "monkey chants" during Wednesday's European Champions League match against CSKA Moscow. Manchester City's Yaya Toure says he was subjected to "monkey chants" during Wednesday's European Champions League match against CSKA Moscow.
Racism in football
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
Yaya Toure racially abused Yaya Toure racially abused

The tale of how Resovia fans displayed a banner at the home game against local rival Stal depicting a Jewish man in an Auschwitz uniform with a "no entry" sign across his face and the slogan, "Death to those with curved noses," is just one that has come to prominence.

In September 2011, when Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv played at Legia Warsaw, its players and fans were abused throughout the contest.

Legia's supporters, who are renowned for being racist, unveiled a large "Jihad" banner behind the goal while holding up placards.

Two weeks later, the same fans chanted "Hamas, Hamas, Jews off to the gas," at Lodz fans instead of the traditional chant of, "Your home is Auschwitz, all Poland knows that the entire Jewish army is going to the gas chamber."

"I wouldn't say that all Polish fans are anti-Semitic or that this is a common situation because it's not," added Zachodny.

"The problem is real, though, and comes from the fact that most of the ultras groups and hooligans are connecting themselves to far-right movements which they take and explain as patriotic.

"Unfortunately, many of them despite not being anti-Semitic, use the chants often, also claiming it is because it was always like that, it should not be understood as racism or anti-Semitism or anything like that.

"That is dangerous as well, obviously, while PZPN is not doing anything about it -- rarely even commenting it."

The incident in Poland came just weeks after French footballer Nicolas Anelka courted controversy by making the "quenelle" gesture after scoring for West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League.

The "quenelle" involves pointing the right arm down at an angle and touching that arm with the left hand.

Anelka has said that the celebration was nothing more than a nod to his friend, controversial French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has popularized the gesture in France.

But others believe the gesture is a Nazi salute in reverse, and it has been linked to rising anti-Semitism in France -- a charge over which Dieudonne, a holocaust denier, faces an investigation by the Paris prosecutor's office.

The English Football Association has yet to make a decision on whether the player will face sanctions.

But Kantor believes that the incident in Poland, coupled with Anelka's gesture, has brought about a new wave of anti-Semitism within football.

"We have seen quick condemnation, bans and major fines when other minorities are attacked by players and fans in Europe, but barely a whimper is heard when Jews are subject to attack," he said in the statement.

"It has been over two weeks since Anelka's offensive salute and it is completely clear to all that the gesture was designed to offend Jews by an unrepentant anti-Semite and Holocaust-denier.

"The silence on behalf of the football authorities compounds the original offense by Anelka, and if it is not harshly dealt with it will be seen as implicit acceptance of this anti-Semitic affront."

Read: Russian racism furore is latest headache for FIFA

Read: Year Zero in football's fight against racism?

Additional reporting by Aleks Klosok

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
A man as a Roman centurion and who earn his living by posing with tourists gestures in front of the Colosseum during a protest where some of his colleagues climbed on the monument on April 12, 2012 in Rome. The costumed centurions are asking for the right to work there after they were banned following a decision by local authorities.
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1622 GMT (0022 HKT)
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT)
A football fan wipes a tear after Inter Milan's Argentinian defender Javier Zanetti has greeted fans following the announcement of his retirement before the start of the Italian seria A football match Inter Milan vs Lazio, on May 10, 2014, in San Siro Stadium In Milan
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.
ADVERTISEMENT