Polish state TV uses Jewish property restitution issue to attack opposition

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish public television has raised the sensitive issue of Jewish property restitution during the country’s presidential campaign by accusing the main opposition candidate, Rafal Trzaskowski, of putting foreign interests first.

FILE PHOTO - Mayor of Warsaw and the presidential candidate of the main Polish opposition party Civic Platform (PO) Rafal Trzaskowski attends election rally in Zakopane, Poland June 6, 2020. Marek Podmokly/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

Poland was home to one of the world’s biggest Jewish communities until it was almost entirely wiped out during World War Two by the Nazis who set up death camps such as Auschwitz on Polish territory.

Jewish former property owners and their descendants have been campaigning for compensation since the fall of communism in 1989. But the nationalist ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) says Poland itself was also a victim of Nazi Germany and that it is for Berlin to compensate former Polish Jews.

The prime time news show on state-owned TVP suggested on Sunday that Trzaskowski, presidential candidate of the centrist Civic Platform (PO), would use public money to compensate Jews for their losses and fail to defend national interests if he beat the incumbent, Andrzej Duda, in the June 28 vote.

President Duda is close to PiS.

TVP quoted a 2015 interview with Trzaskowski saying Poland “needs to talk with Jewish communities and try to solve this problem (of property restitution)”. It also suggested Trzaskowski’s “thinking is not based on Polish interests”.

Previously, the show has said Trzaskowski has close ties to George Soros, the billionaire financier who supports liberal causes in eastern Europe.

“(Trzaskowski) is a man (...) who represents foreign interests in our country,” PiS MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk told Reuters, adding that the PO candidate took “his mandate” from Berlin or Brussels and would not stand up for Polish interests.

A spokesman for PO said it was difficult to comment on such “absurdities”.

“Public television in Poland is more similar to public television in Russia or Belarus than to public television in a democratic country,” said Jan Grabiec.

Trzaskowski has said he will reform TVP if he wins the presidency.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Gareth Jones