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Far-right Polish lawmaker extinguishes Hanukkah candles in Polish parliament

Grzegorz Braun, far-right Polish lawmaker from Confederation party, holds a fire extinguisher to put out Hanukkah candles at the parliament in this screenshot from a video, in Warsaw, Poland December 12, 2023. (Photo: Sebastian Napieraj/TVN24 via REUTERS)

Far-right Polish lawmaker Grzegorz Braun of the Confederation Party, took a fire extinguisher and put out the Hanukkah candles that had just been lit inside the Polish parliament building, subsequently covering bystanders in the powder that was discharged from the extinguisher and causing security guards to rush people out of the area.

“Those who take part in acts of Satanic worship should be ashamed,” the Polish Member of Parliament responded when asked how he could do such a thing and if he felt ashamed.

Braun reportedly considers Jews to be an “enemy” of Poland.

The lawmaker's party condemned his behavior in a post on X and Speaker Szymon Holownia condemned Braun, excluding him from the sitting at the Sejm (the Polish Parliament).

“There is no place for anti-Semitism, racism and aggression in the Sejm. The Presidium of the Sejm punished MP Braun with the maximum penalty at its disposal. This outrageous act deserves condemnation across political divides,” Holownia wrote on X. and told reporters he would forward the case to prosecutors.

Donald Tusk, the newly-appointed prime minister of Poland, said the incident was a “disgrace.”

“All decent people think exactly the same thing: This is an unacceptable thing, this must never happen again. This is a disgrace,” Tusk said.

Cardinal Grzegorz Ryś from the city of Lodz, who also serves as the chair of Poland's Catholic Church's 'Committee for Dialogue with Judaism,' condemned the incident and apologized to the Jewish Community in Poland.

“In connection with the incident in the Sejm committed by Mr. MP Grzegorz Braun, who extinguished the Hanukkah candles and declared that he was not ashamed of what he had done, I declare that I am ashamed and apologize to the entire Jewish community in Poland,” Ryś wrote.

Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told Reuters that Braun's actions were not representative of the nation and that he was “embarrassed” for the behavior.

“Someone extinguished the Hanukkah candles and a few minutes later we relit them,” he said. “For thousands of years our enemies have been trying to extinguish us, from the time of the Maccabees right through to Hamas. But our enemies should learn, they cannot extinguish us.”

President of the Conference of European Rabbis Pinchas Goldschmidt said that Braun’s actions put Jewish lives at risk.

“Today, we bore witness to an event characterized by incitement and top-tier antisemitism. If the Polish parliament fails to safeguard the dignity and security of the Jewish community, how can they ensure their protection in the public sphere?" Goldschmidt said.

"Braun's actions, as a member of the far-right party, put the lives of Jewish community members at risk and could potentially lead to further attacks. I urge the authorities to launch an investigation into Braun and hold him accountable. The time for action is now.”

Magdalena Gudzińska-Adamczyk, a medical doctor who took part in the candlelighting ceremony, tried to protect the 8-branched holiday menorah.

“I thought someone had been burned, something had caught fire, but it turned out that he was attacking the hanukkiah with this powder extinguisher … a religious symbol, a thing important to me, so I stood in his way and he then splashed the powder extinguisher in my face,” Gudzińska-Adamczyk told reporters.

“This is my religious symbol, I have the right to defend it, because we live in a free, democratic country. And no one has the right to direct a powder extinguisher in my face because I am defending my religious symbol,” she added.

Traditional lighting of Hanukkah candles has taken place for the last 17 consecutive years in the Polish Sejm.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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