Muslim students report racial abuse on Holocaust study trip to Poland
Twenty youngsters from the Theodor Heuss Community School in the Moabit district of Berlin went on a trip organized by the German-based House of the Wannsee Conference, a Holocaust memorial group. The group went to Warsaw, Lodz, Lublin and Krakow, and visited the former concentration camps Majdanek and Treblinka.
The trip aimed to educate the students on the Holocaust and how the Poles suffered in the course of the Nazi occupation.
Four girls from the group later told the German Deutschlandfunk radio station that they had suffered racial abuse while on the trip.
Those wearing headscarves were targeted most of all, the students’ teacher Sabeth Schmidthals said, as reported by Tagesspiegel.
One of the girls in particular said that a man spat on her in the street in Lublin, and police standing nearby failed to act.
Seydanur Kilic, one of the girls wearing a headscarf, told Deutschlandfunk, "We saw policemen smiling, and a Pole explained to us police didn’t want to help."
The police confirmed the incident, but said they misunderstood the students due to the language barrier, hearing “from the people translating that there was no problem.”
A police statement concluded that "the trip participants did not report any complaints to Lublin police officers."
Some of the girls said that a market stall in Lublin refused to sell water to them because they were foreigners.
One girl also said she was threatened with a knife, while another reported that a woman in Lodz threw a drink over her, telling her to “get out.”
Other Muslim students said they weren’t let into a synagogue in Lublin, Die Zeit reported.
The director of the Holocaust memorial body, Hans-Christian Jasch, said: "I'm especially shocked that this happened to youngsters in our care on this trip – indeed, on a trip dedicated to studying this very topic [racism]. Of course that's particularly sad," as cited by the BBC.
The students came back from Poland on Sunday, and have discussed the experience, also scheduling a meeting of the group to deal with the events of the trip, Tagesspiegel reported.
Polish opposition politicians have used the episode to accuse the ruling conservative party of contributing to xenophobia.
A fortnight ago, the Law and Justice Party (PiS) tweeted an opinion poll chart with the statement: “Do not let yourselves be persuaded that an aversion to refugees is something bad. Poles are not an exception in Europe.” The tweet was quickly replaced with a milder statement referring to the refugee crisis in general.
In May, Poland’s interior minister said on national radio that letting refugees into the country would “certainly be much worse” than Brussels’ penalties for not doing so, following an EU commission urging Poland and Hungary to implement refugee quotas or face action.