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Gliwice, Rybnik. Final verdicts after “Hitler's birthday”, one trial to be amended

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The court found that the “celebration” of Hitler's birthday was public propagation of Nazism. For this and other crimes, he gave six participants of the meeting suspended prison sentences ranging from three months to a year. The appellate court overturned the verdict only in the case of Mateusz S. The others have already been legally convicted.

Dressed in Wehrmacht and SS uniforms, they toasted to him in front of an “altar” with the likeness of Adolf Hitler, ate a cake in the colors of the Third Reich flag, hung red flags with swastikas on trees, and set a large wooden swastika on fire in the evening. Everything happened in the forest six years ago and was recorded with a hidden camera by journalists from “Superwizjer” TVN. After the report was broadcast, an investigation was initiated.

In May 2022, the District Court in Wodzisław Śląski passed a judgment in this case. The court found that the “celebration” of Hitler's birthday was public propagation of Nazism. Prosecutor Agnieszka Marcińczyk requested that the defendants be sentenced to absolute imprisonment – from 8 months to 1 year and 4 months. The defense demanded acquittal arguing that the event was not public, but private, and therefore – according to the Penal Code – participation in it was not subject to criminal liability. The defense lawyers also argued that the people responding in the trial did not propagate Nazism, and their meeting was a “joke”, “happening”, “fun” organized among friends.

The court of first instance agreed with the prosecutor's office that the “celebrations” were organized in a public, visible and frequently visited place, and the organizer had to be aware that the event could be seen by outsiders. The organizer did not intend to hide the “celebrations”; it was not a private event – said the chairman of the adjudicating panel, giving oral reasons for the decision.

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The court in Wodzisław sentenced the main accused, Mateusz S. – former head of the now banned “Pude i Nowoczesność” association and the organizer of the event – to one year in prison. He sent over 80 invitations to his friends via the Internet with a “celebration” program in the form of a poster, which included, among others: the emblem of the Third Reich, the swastika and the image of Hitler. During the meeting, together with other people, he praised Hitler's rule, leadership skills and proclaimed values, using Nazi uniforms and other symbols of this system. For this crime, Mateusz S. was sentenced to 11 months in prison.

In addition to promoting the Nazi state system during the “celebrations” in Wodzisław, S. was also responsible for similar behavior – at the Orle Gniazdo festival, where he wore a T-shirt with a swastika, and during a concert in the Boguszowice district of Rybnik, where he made a Nazi salute. S. was also responsible for illegal possession of ammunition. The court sentenced him to a total prison sentence of one year, conditionally suspending its execution for three years.

The court sentenced Krystian Z., who was charged with propagating Nazism in the forest in Wodzisław and during two editions of the Eagle's Nest festival, to a 10-month suspended prison term, and Dawid K., accused of publicly promoting the Nazi system during the “celebrations of the Eagle's Nest”, to an 8-month suspended prison sentence. “Hitler's birthday and at a concert in Boguszowice.

The remaining defendants were sentenced to sentences ranging from 3 months to half a year in prison, also suspended for a probation period. In addition to the prison sentence, the defendants were obliged by the court of first instance to pay fines and inform the probation officer every three months about the progress of the trial.

Appeal from the prosecutor's office: conditional suspension is unjustified

The prosecutor's office filed an appeal. – The main part of the appeal concerns the gross disproportion of the penalties imposed on the accused, the prosecutor's office assessed the conditional suspension of prison sentences as unjustified – described Karina Spruś from the District Prosecutor's Office in Gliwice.

As she added, in the appeal the public prosecutor demands the same penalties as he requested in the final speech before the Wodzisław court; it also contains other, less important allegations regarding the judgment of the first instance. The prosecutor's appeal was accepted by the Wodzisław court and sent to the District Court in Rybnik, where the appeal hearing was held.

The trial of one of the accused will be repeated

On Monday, June 10, the District Court in Rybnik decided to annul the verdict only in the case of Mateusz S. The reason was that none of his three defense lawyers participated in the hearings, despite such an obligation. The court is considering disciplinary proceedings against these defenders. In the case of the remaining defendants, the court found the appeals groundless.

According to the appeal court, the court of first instance made a good interpretation and the facts regarding Hitler's birthday were well assessed. “It was not a joke, a happening. The gesture of heckling is a clear Nazi fest. Nazi flags were not a historical reconstruction. It is not that the defense said that it was just immoral behavior. The court considers it to be punishable behavior. The affirmation of Nazism cannot be allowed and should be eliminated,” the oral justification said

The case of Mateusz S. will be heard again by the court in Wodzisław Śląski. The remaining judgments are already final and can only be appealed against to the Supreme Court

The trial after the reportage of “Superwizjer” TVN

The trial began in July 2019. Six participants of the “celebrations” sat on the defendant's bench. None of them pleaded guilty, also questioning the public nature of the meeting in the forest.

An investigation into this case was initiated in January 2018 after the broadcast of a reportage in the Superwizjer program on TVN entitled “Polish neo-Nazis”. Journalists showed, among others: celebration of the 128th anniversary of Hitler's birth, which took place over half a year earlier in the forest near Wodzisław Śląski. At the request of the prosecutor's office, the Internal Security Agency detained the participants of the meeting and searched their apartments. Flags, badges, patches and publications with Nazi symbols were found in their homes.

The material of “Superwizjer” TVN showed, among others: red flags with swastikas hung on trees and an “altar” in honor of Hitler with his black and white image and a large wooden swastika soaked in barbecue lighter, which was set on fire after dark. Participants of the meeting could also be seen dressed in Wehrmacht and SS uniforms, raising toasts “to Adolf Hitler and our homeland, beloved Poland” and offering a cake in the colors of the Third Reich flag.


Main photo source: Superwizjer TVN

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