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Polish leader sparks outcry with 'humane masters' claim

FILE-In this file Jan. 25, 2017 file photo, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, center, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, speaks with lawmakers in parliament in Warsaw, Poland. Kaczynski faced accusations on Wednesday Feb. 22, 2017 of sing offensive and divisive language for saying that members of his ruling party are "benevolent masters," contrasting them with oppositions politicians whom he described as not being "masters" at all. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz,file)

Associated PressFebruary 22, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland's ruling party faced accusations that he used offensive and divisive language when he said Wednesday that members of his ruling party are "humane masters."

The language evoked a time when Polish society was divided between serfs and their masters, or lords. Some critics even said it was reminiscent of Nazi phraseology.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski made his comments Wednesday as he argued in parliament that his ruling Law and Justice party has behaved better during its time in power than the previous governing party, Civic Platform. He said his party leaders did not use force to solve a crisis in parliament in December even though they could have.

An opposition lawmaker sarcastically yelled to him: "Humane masters!"

Kaczynski replied: "We are humane masters because we are masters, unlike some others."

Civic Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna said Kaczynski's words carried the "worst historical connections," implying notions of "a nation of masters and a master race."

Kaczynski, who heads a populist and nationalist party, has also caused controversy in the past with language considered divisive by his critics. He has called the Poles who protest his government "Poles of the worst sort."In 2015 he warned that migrants arriving in Europe were dangerous because they carry "parasites and protozoa."

Some critics said Kaczynski's comment Wednesday reminded them of the kind of language used by the Nazis.

Tomasz Lis, the editor of Poland's Newsweek, asked on Twitter: "What's next? Das Herrenvolk? Uebermensch? Gott mit uns?"

Herrenvolk ("master race") and Uebermensch ("superman") were concepts central to Adolf Hitler's racist ideology. "Gott mit uns" ("God is with us") is an older Prussian expression also used by the Nazis.

(c) Associated Press 2017

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