The annual Polish independence day celebration took an unsettling turn on Saturday when white nationalist marchers flooded the streets of Warsaw, Poland, waving banners that read “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust” and chanting “Europe will be white.”
Tens of thousands of demonstrators (read: white supremacists like those from Charlottesville) from across Europe gathered in the country’s capital to protest Muslim immigration, gay rights, the European Union, and more. Like the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the crowd was largely comprised of young white men. And together, they ignited flares and chanted “fatherland.” Some wore masks and carried signs that read “White Europe” and “Clean Blood.” The march’s organizer, a Polish nationalist youth movement called National Radical Camp, seeks to eliminate Jews and Muslims from Poland in order to create an “ethnically pure” nation-state. This year, Radical Camp adopted a new slogan: “We want God.” Taken from a Polish hymn, the phrase was quoted by President Donald Trump in a speech addressing Poland in July. Saturday’s Independence Day march is believed to be the Radical Camp’s largest ever. According to police estimates, some 60,000 demonstrators took part.
At first, the group’s Independence Day marches, held annually since 2009, struggled to attract more than a few hundred participants. Today, it is one of the largest nationalist marches of its kind in Europe. In fact, it is the largest Independence Day event in Poland.
Unfortunately, Poland is not the only country experiencing a rise in white nationalist ideology among its people.
Back in August, an angry mob of white nationalists marched across the University of Virginia’s Charlottesville campus, carrying tiki torches and chanting “White Lives Matter” and “You will not replace us.” Just a few hours later, white supremacists took to the streets, brandishing assault rifles and chanting, “Blood and soil,” a well-known Nazi rallying cry. In the months since, white supremacists have returned to Charlottesville and have organized demonstrations in Tennessee.
Some stressed that the Polish Independence Day march wasn’t inherently nationalist.
But it is just as alarming that the people there to celebrate Poland’s Independence Day didn’t seem to have a problem sharing their platform with nationalists.
In the wake of Saturday’s march, Twitter users drew parallels between today’s frightening spread of white nationalist extremism and its far-reaching influence in 20th century Europe.
Poland’s Independence Day march commemorates the country’s 1918 reclamation of sovereignty following over a century’s rule by Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian empire.