March 3, 2010
My fiancee's mother, who is not Jewish - yes, I know, I'm marrying out - but whom has a lifelong love and appreciation of Judaism, Jewish people and Jewish culture dating from her friendship with children who came here as part of the Kindertransport, spent last week in Poland with a Polish work colleague who had offered an opportunity to stay for free with relatives. She planned to visit various sites of Jewish interest while there, including the remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz.
On the morning of her second day, she and her friend shared breakfast at a pavement cafe and discussed what they were going to do for the remainder of the day - at which point my mother-in-law-to-be expressed an interest in the Ghetto and was shocked when her friend (who she is quick to add is no longer her friend) spat on the ground and asked why she wanted "to see anything to do with filthy Jews." Naturally, it became apparent at this point that they were not going to be spending the rest of the holiday together.
For the rest of the week, she paid for a hotel room and spent her time travelling around Warsaw photographing anything she could find that recalled the once vibrant Jewish community of the city. She found very little was left from before World War 2, but has since developed two rolls of film showing various houses and walls that she noticed during her wanderings.
She noticed the houses because somebody had been around with aerosol paint cans which they've used to spray yellow stars - rather crudely scrawled with five points instead of six - inside a red crossed circle like those used in "no smoking" signs, with the word "JUDEN" underneath. She saw around fifteen to twenty houses that had been attacked in this way. A wall she snapped bears a large red swastika along with the words "NAZIS" and "HEIL HITLER" - the words look as though they've been there for quite a while, with no attempt to remove them or paint over them. Another wall, next to a synagogue, was covered in so much graffiti that the bulk of it is illegible but the sames sorts of words can be picked out.
One day, she overheard English voices and so she introduced herself to a couple who turned out to be from Sheffield. They had been to Auschwitz a few days previously and told her about their experiences, at which point - so upset was she by her friend's blatant antisemitism and the graffiti - she decided she was simply unable to take any more and made arrangements to fly home early.
Chilling stuff; and I am glad to live in a country where although antisemitism exists, the majority of people find it utterly unacceptable and people with beliefs of that type do not feel they can be so open about it.