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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Jacek Stawiski: The Constitution was burned in Kalisz. The Constitution of the Rights of Polish Jews and Polish Tolerance

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It is not an easy decision. Describing the actions of extreme groups certainly contributes to their publicity to some extent. It gives neo-fascists an “audience”. Therefore, it is not always worth it. But this time the anti-Semitic and anti-Polish hate orgy in Kalisz shocked me to the bone. It was, it is something that cannot be called just a freak of some sordid group of fanatical rascals and fascist groups. It is an attack on the foundation of Polishness. It was an orgy of anti-Polish and anti-Semitic hatred, a blow to one of the most important foundations of our identity. Into the foundation of the Republic of Poland.

It would seem that after naming people professing extreme views – extreme nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, germanophobia, europhobia, polonophobia (after all in Warsaw last Thursday images were burned and Poles were denied Polishness) and other terrible ideas – good and at the same time smiling “Polish” patriots “, nothing can surprise or outrage any more. Nevertheless, the events in Kalisz are a Rubicon for me, something that disturbs my peace, prevents me from waving my hand and telling myself and others: this is a prank, this is a handful, it will pass. To all who say so, I ask the question: what if it doesn’t pass? What if it’s not a prank?


The Polish Constitution was burned in Kalisz. Yes. The status of Kalisz from August 1264 is one of those documents which, for a good understanding of what it was, could be called the “Constitution of the Rights of Polish Jews”. Granted by prince Bolesław the Pious to the Jews of Greater Poland, it became an example for other Polish princes and monarchs, until the fall of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as a model of rights, privileges and obligations for Jews and Jewish women who lived in Poland. According to the laws of this document, Polish Jews in the Crown and Lithuania, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, enjoyed tolerance, here they could settle, work, pray, and increase their prosperity and their earthly homeland, which the Republic of Poland had become. It is from the Kalisz Status that one can say that old Poland, already in the Middle Ages, became a shelter for Jews fleeing persecution, pogroms, expropriations, and forced conversions to Christianity. Without him, it is impossible to speak with pride about Polish tolerance, about the centuries-old Polish-Jewish neighborhood.

The status of Kalisz, which I called the Constitution of Polish Jews, was a model of Jewish rights for Kazimierz the Great, the Jagiellonians, up to Jan III Sobieski, August III and Stanisław August, who renewed and confirmed Jewish privileges. It was also modeled on in discussions about the civil rights of Polish Jews in the constitutional Kingdom of Poland, which survived only a dozen years after the Congress of Vienna (1815-1831). This privilege was not immediately accepted by everyone, but nevertheless entered Polish legislation and Polish tradition. When the Commonwealth began to develop as a state of nobility and magnates, the Kalisz privilege became a model for private cities and towns where Jews settled.

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The document from the thirteenth century, first announced in Greater Poland and later extended to Lesser Poland and the rest of the lands of the Crown and Lithuania, gave Jews elementary, as we would say today, human rights. They were under the protection of the prince (king), that is, speaking a modern language, under the protection of the state. They were protected against persecution, severely punished for killing and mutilation, and Jewish buildings, such as synagogues and cemeteries, were protected. Jews were not equated with the rights of Christians, religious and social segregation was ordered, but Jews were allowed to trade freely and exchange money with Christians. In a word, the Jews were treated by Polish princes and kings as people who need to be protected. One of the records of the document urged Christians to come to the rescue if they heard a cry for help from the Jews. The document gave Jews judicial autonomy and protected them against false accusations of ritual murder.

It was the Status of Kalisz and the later documents of the monarchs that allowed Poland to become Polin for thousands of Jews, a place where they would rest and settle, where they would find a safe home, unlike those countries and cities of medieval and modern Europe which persecuted and persecuted the Jews. chased out. Most of the contemporary Jews of the world, from Europe, through the State of Israel, to North and South America, South Africa and Australia, have their ancestors in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The roots of this historical phenomenon also go back to the privilege of Bolesław the Pious in Kalisz.

Someone who prepared and organized the public burning of the Constitution of the Rights of Polish Jews knew very well how important and essential this document is for the Republic of Poland and the Jewish community in the Republic of Poland. The hate orgy was an orgy of hatred against Jews and Poles. It hit the foundations of what it is for me, and I hope most of us, the Republic of Poland. I wish the Commonwealth would feel obliged to protest, to act. The Republic of Poland, that is we, the citizens. Each option. I dream that the entire Polish political class, cultural, church and civil elites, etc., would come to Kalisz, showing that they would not allow the Polish Constitution to be burned, even if it is a document from the 13th century. Because he retains his importance to this day. Not read literally, but read as one of the first symbols of the beginning of Polish tolerance and the multinational, multi-religious Republic of Poland.

Immediately I will meet with the accusation that there is too much pathos, that I exaggerate. This time I don’t feel like it. That this is the moment when Marian Turski’s words that “Auschwitz did not fall from heaven” come true and we need to write just a few words. Let us not allow ourselves to be torn out of Polishness and Polish identity and turn it into a xenophobic, anti-Semitic wave of hatred. Whoever hits Polish Jews hits all Poles. Whoever dehumanizes Polish Jews excludes himself with his hateful, furious roar of Polishness and Polish tradition. And we cannot give up haters the right to the legacy of the best traditions of the Republic of Poland. These are our traditions, the haters taint our traditions.

Author:Jacek Stawiski, author of the program “Horizon”

Main photo source: TVN24

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