Muslim students harassed during Polish Holocaust trip

28th Jul 2017

Elham Asaad Buaras

Group of German Muslim pupils say they were threatened with a knife, spat on and ejected from a shop during a Holocaust study trip in Poland last month, German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk reports.

The Muslim majority group of 20 students from Theodor Heuss Community School in Berlin had visited World War II concentration camps in Treblinka and Maidanek but it was in the city of Lublin that they say locals subjected to a very hostile environment.

Their teacher Sabeth Schmidthals said, “These are very active students they go against the popular belief that youngsters or Muslim students are not interested in this topic.”

Sheida Nur, one of four girls wearing hijab, said: “I was spat on by a man in the street who then ran away.” She added that one police officer idly stood by during the abuse.

One of the boys in the group said, “We saw the policemen grinning. Then a Polish man explained that the police would not want to help us.”

Another girl was expelled from a shopping mall for speaking Farsi in a phone call to her brother. “They came up to me and asked me to leave. They said I was disturbing the people. I asked why. Just because I was talking in Farsi and I was a foreigner? They said ‘yes’.”

Another girl had an encounter with a woman who “came at us yelling ‘go away’. She then poured her drink on me and my camera.”

In a market, the hijab-wearing girls were turned away from a stall where they tried to buy water. In another incident, one of the girls was threatened by a man with a knife. “I thought he wanted to ask me something, but then I ran straight back to the hotel.”

The Poland trip was organised by the German Holocaust memorial body, the House of the Wannsee Conference aka Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz (GHWK).

The educational institute have voiced their concern in the wake of the allegations and say they are awaiting the feedback an investigation by the Polish Human Rights Commission.

GHWK Director, Dr Hans-Christian Jasch, told The Muslim News his organisation will continue organising trips to Poland, insisting they will “need to coordinate more intensively with our partners there and reassess the particular situation of groups.”

He added, “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.”

The Polish prosecutor’s office confirmed that the number of hate crimes against Muslims had doubled from 2015 to 2016. Poland’s conservative government refuses to take in Muslim refugees claiming they would not fit in a majority Christian Catholic society.

During the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015, Education Secretary, Jaroslav Gowin, said, “every (…) people have the right to protect itself from extinction”.

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