Priests have ‘blessed’ with their presence a re-enactment of the horrors of Auschwitz at a Polish primary school, complete with a mock gassing of victims.

Driving the news

The performance took place in Łabunie, in south-eastern Poland, at a school named after the “Zamość Children” (Dzieci Zamojszczyzny).

Those were the thousands of Polish children from the Zamość region kidnapped by Nazis during World War II to make way for ethnic German resettlement.

Zamość Children with “racially valuable” Aryan features were forcibly adopted out to German families. Others were sent into forced labour, and others were gassed at Auschwitz.

At the Łabunie school performance – carried out under teacher supervision – two twelve-year-old boys in Nazi uniforms and swastika armbands took to the stage in front of children as young as seven dressed in the striped uniforms of Auschwitz prisoners, kneeling behind barbed wire.

“At one point, the Gestapo officers turned on a smoke machine and the gassed ‘prisoners’ fell to the floor pretending to be dead”, wrote Newsweek Polska reporter Dawid Karpiuk, who was present at the event.

The performance then concluded with dances by children representing death and new life, and an explanation of the significance of the historical episode, according to videos that began to circulate on social media December 31.

Go deeper

In those videos, several priests can be seen in the audience at the performance, seated among World War II veterans and surrounded by other children holding Polish flags and wearing sashes in the national colours of red and white.

At least one of the clerics is wearing a surplice and stole.

Another guest of honour was the Łabunie local mayor, of Poland’s ruling conservative and ultranationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, who told the children that it was their duty to protect “Latin Christianity” against the left-wing “traitors” and the “dangers” that the modern West faces.

The PiS government last year passed a law outlawing references to “Polish” World War II death camps, which it said were rather run by Germans.

The Polish Church has been a key ally of the PiS government and its program.

Another speaker at the Łabunie event, herself the daughter of Auschwitz victims, told the children that Poland deserves war reparations from Germany, adding that those who deny that fact, like opposition MPs, would have “had their heads shaved [as traitors] during the occupation”.

Why it matters

“Thousands of schools” in Poland habitually hold such historical World War II re-enactments, journalist Karpiuk denounced, because “only with such a Poland can the priest [sic] and PiS do what they want”.

“You can try to raise your children [as you want], but they will hear at school that they have to fight against ‘certain circles’, that a Pole must be Catholic, and that they must ‘defend Latin civilisation’… They will have their brains cooked in Polish porn”.

Polish historian Jan Grabowski told Haaretz that the Łabunie school performance points towards the reason why so many young Poles voting for the extreme right.

“No one in the audience thought there was anything problematic about the scene”, Grabowski decried.

For the record

For its part, the Auschwitz Museum took to Twitter to complain about the Łabunie performance.

“The idea of dressing up students this age in SS uniforms and staging death scenes with them is simply bad”, the Museum denounced.

“Adults who organized this lack of elementary sensitivity needed to educate children with such a tragic and challenging history”.

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