Country Report: Poland


The Nicolaus Copernicus Monument, Warsaw decorated during a protest [Rafal Milach—Magnum Photos]

In the 2020 Polish presidential elections, Andrzej Duda of the Law and Justice Party, was re-elected. Poland’s conservative nationalist government has used the COVID-19 pandemic to impose restrictions on freedom of expression, the right to protest, and access to asylum.

On July 25, 2020, the government announced that it will withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty prohibiting violence against women. [Poland has not yet formally withdrawn.] Poland contends that the treaty’s requirement that schools teach children about gender violates parents’ rights to teach their children following their religious traditions. A bill written in place of the treaty is named “Yes to Family, No to Gender.” Civil liberties groups fear that the bill will legalize domestic violence and encourage homophobia.

Public homophobia has made the LGBT+ community feel unsafe. Several towns have taken to calling themselves ‘LGBT free zones’. Poland does not legally recognize civil unions. LGBT+ couples cannot adopt children, though single persons can still adopt. In March 2021, the government proposed closing adoption to all LGBT+ persons.

President Duda has referred to LGBT+ rights as an “ideology” “more destructive than communism." Minister of Education and Science Przemyslaw Czarnek, has said about LGBT+ persons: “These people aren’t equal to normal people.” Civil liberties organizations fear that Czarnek will revise the nation's school curriculum to promote racism and homophobia.

Since World War II, Poland has become one of Europe’s most ethnically homogeneous societies. Ethnic Poles constitute 97% of the population. Poland has become increasingly xenophobic. During the 2015 refugee crisis, Poland resisted accepting Muslim refugees and agreed to accept only 1% of Middle Eastern migrants seeking asylum in Europe. Ukrainian migrants on whose labor the Polish economy depends have been victims of hate crimes. The Never Again Association has documented xenophobic incidents against Asian citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Antisemitic language was used during election campaigns. Jewish property and cemeteries have been regularly vandalized.

Poland is in denial over its national cooperation with the Holocaust. The state-funded Institute of National Remembrance promotes a denialist version of Polish history under Nazi occupation. A 2018 law made it illegal to associate the Polish nation with Nazi crimes. On Feb. 9, 2021, two historians were ordered to publicly apologize for labeling certain Polish nationals as Holocaust perpetrators. The head of the Polish League Against Defamation praised the decision, stating, “We don’t have to bear the stigma ascribed to us by historians as perpetrators of the Holocaust.”

Genocide Watch considers Poland to be at Stage 3: Discrimination, Stage 4: Dehumanization, and Stage 6: Polarization due to legislation that restricts the rights of women and the LGBT+ community. Poland is also at Stage 10: Denial concerning Polish cooperation with the Holocaust.

Genocide Watch recommends:

· Poland should not withdraw from the Istanbul Convention that protects women’s rights.

· Poland should abide by the EU LGBTIQ Freedom Zone Resolution (2021).

· Poland should protect the civil rights of LGBT+ persons, including the right to adopt children.

· Poland’s education curriculum must oppose, rather than promote, xenophobia and homophobia.

· Poland should recognize the dual role of Poles as both victims and participants in the Holocaust.

· Polish government funding must not go to organizations that promote Holocaust revisionism.


Poland Country Report June 2021
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© Genocide Watch, 2021