Poland′s divisions deepen as Gdansk mourns Pawel Adamowicz | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.01.2019
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Poland's divisions deepen as Gdansk mourns Pawel Adamowicz

As Gdansk mourns following the murder of Mayor Pawel Adamowicz, Polish officials remain reluctant to confront political divisions, DW's Monika Sieradzka reports from Warsaw. Right-wing groups had threatened Adamowicz.

"Gdansk will never be the same city" is written in a condolence book at City Hall. Mayor Pawel Adamowicz died Monday after being stabbed at an event for a children's charity.

Right-wing groups had threatened Adamowicz. Poland has been under the rule of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party since 2015. Two years ago, the far-right All-Polish Youth group had printed up a symbolic death certificate for the mayor: a threatened penalty for his cosmopolitanism.

The public prosecutor's office had just dropped its investigation into the death certificates after deciding that they were "not hate speech" but expressions of "dissatisfaction with the decisions of the mayors." And then Adamowicz was killed.

The creators of the death certificates had good reason to believe that they would go unpunished: Such actions are increasingly met with indifference, even tolerance, by Poles and their leaders.

For example, just three years ago an effigy of a Jew was openly burned at an Islamophobic demonstration in Wroclaw. In 2017 nationalists hung photos of six Polish members of the European Parliament on symbolic gallows in the center of the southern city of Katowice, another implied death sentence — this time because the MEPs had dared side with the EU as it criticized PiS's efforts to take control of the judiciary.

Adamowicz embraces German consul

The cosmopolitan mayor had a friendly relationship with Germany's consul in Gdansk

'A worse kind'

Shortly after PiS claimed victory in Poland's 2015 parliamentary elections, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the party's chairman, had branded the opposition "Poles of a worse kind" and "traitors." He accused his opponents of murdering his brother, Lech, in the 2010 plane crash in Russia that killed several government figures.

This has trickled down. At nationalist demonstrations, the opposition is regularly branded as a "red mob" that ought to be smashed "with hammer and sickle." Adamowicz was one of those who had spoken out against such propaganda.

A few hours after Adamowicz's death, the state broadcaster TVP assigned the blame to the opposition, alleging that dissidents had increased Poland's political tensions.

To build its case, TVP made reference to comments by Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform (PO), who had recently described the PiS as "locusts" blighting the otherwise-healthy tree of Poland.

Schetyna was not the first to use inflammatory language to describe the ruling party. In 2017, former President Lech Walesa suggested to PiS members that they jump out of the window. In 2017, former Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski called for the party to be purged.

Polen, Danzig: Donald Tusk spricht zur Ermordung Pawel Adamowicz (picture-alliance/M. Fludra)

European Council President Donald Tusk, once Poland's prime minister, joined mourners

Politics of murder

Adamowicz's family has called for his murder not to be politicized. But few commentators appear prepared to honor that request. In a deeply divided country, Adamowicz's death has already become a political issue.

Whether the dialogue is about the PiS's attitude toward the European Union, its silencing of dissenters, the role of the Catholic Church in government or Poland's historical memory, the sides are entrenched.

There is not even agreement following the slaying of a democratically elected leader.

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