Poland′s PiS ′removes′ Berlin cultural envoy | News | DW | 06.12.2016
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Poland's PiS 'removes' Berlin cultural envoy

Poland's national conservative government has removed the progressive director of its cultural institute in Berlin, according to two German newspapers. One complaint was about "too much Jewish-themed content."

Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska, who headed one of 24 Polish institutes worldwide, lost her Berlin post last week, reported Berlin's "Tageszeitung" (TAZ) as well as the "Frankfurter Rundschau" (FR).

They said Poland's new ambassador to Berlin, Andrzej Przylebski, an advocate of a "return to traditionalism" had complained of "too much Jewish-themed content" after an institute screening early this year of the Oscar-acclaimed film "Ida."

The film's central figure finds out in 1960s strongly Catholic Poland that she is Jewish and that her biological parents had been murdered by their neighbors.

Przylebski ran into rejections by Berlin theaters in October when he tried to screen "Smolensk," a movie that claims the 2010 crash that killed then-President Lech Kaczynski was not an accident but a plot- denied by Russia.

Under Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Poland's right-wing government lead by the Law and Justice (PiS) and its chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski - the late president's brother - touts a moral revolution.

Protest in open letter

TAZ said an open letter challenging Wielga-Skolimowska's dismissal had been signed by senior officials of Berlin institutions, including its Jewish Museum, Berlin's Festspiele cultural center, and the foundation for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, located near the Brandenburg Gate.

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Under Wielga-Skolimowska's tenure since 2013 the institute had presented Poland well and on various levels, said Marcin Piekoszewski of the German-Polish book outlet Buchbund.

The Frankfurter Rundschau reported Wielga-Skolimowska's contract would have run until mid-2017. Instead, she had been told to leave her bureau and vacate her apartment by the end of December, it reported.

'Cultural battle'

In September, shortly after taking office in Berlin, Ambassador Przylebski told the news agency AFP that the EU was engaged in a "cultural battle," that had swung  from "multi-culti" [multiculturalism] to what he welcomed as a "return to traditionalism and a certain conservatism."

He accused German media and politicians of previously failing to make efforts to understand the situation in Poland.

Interviewed by Berlin's "Tagesspiegel" newspaper in June, Wielga-Skolimowska was asked whether her work had changed since government clamps on Polish television and theaters. 

"We continue to run our program as we had planned it," replied the theater studies graduate. 

She said topics nominated by Warsaw must be cleverly implemented to meet local expectations.

"In our case it is Berlin and Germany. It must be interesting for our public here," said Wielga-Skolimowska.

ipj/se (AFP, dpa)

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