The murder of Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz is a warning that Polish society has become dangerously polarized and that the country's political right must work to ease rather than stoke tensions, DW's Bartosz Dudek writes.
The murder of Pawel Adamowicz marks a dark day in Polish history, particularly so because the attack was committed in Gdansk, the city where peaceful protests set in motion the collapse of Soviet-style communism in the late 20th century — and even more so because it was carried out at a charity event that had brought together altruistically minded people from across the political spectrum.
Adamowicz had served as mayor of Gdansk for over 20 years and was re-elected just months ago. The assassin has a criminal record and is apparently psychologically disturbed. Yet his statement at the crime scene right after the attack leaves no doubt that he acted on a political motive. The responsibility for Adamowicz's death lies squarely with those who have sowed political discord and stoked hatred in Polish society in recent times.
The mayor was intensely disliked by Poland's nationalists, in part for offering to welcome and accommodate refugees in Gdansk. Adamowicz was also the country's first mayor to establish a special council to address migrant-related issues. And he opted to host the 2016 anniversary celebration of Poland's Constitutional Court in Gdansk when the right-wing Law and Justice government refused to do so.
A right-wing target
In recent years, Adamowicz, who had been an independent since 2015, was targeted out by government-affiliated media outlets for shaky scandal stories on graft. Yet the smear campaign apparently backfired as Adamowicz was elected to his sixth term in office in November.
The residents of Gdansk, a liberal and open-minded city, clearly did not care for the bad press. Even so, Adamowicz's enemies directed fierce vitriol at the mayor — and created a hateful atmosphere that ultimately resulted in his tragic death.
Adamowicz's assassination should serve as a stark warning that hatred and divisiveness ought to have no place in Polish and EU politics. What is needed is greater respect for dissenting political opinions and a willingness to foster compromise. As Poland mourns the mayor's death, one can hope that the country's right-wing leaders will come to their senses.