Poles march in protest of anti-Semitism, racism

By the Associated Press | September 4, 2011 | 4:05 PM EDT

City authorities and lawmakers, left, leading a march to protest recent local anti-Semitic and racist attacks, in Bialystok, Poland Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011. A group of young men chanting nationalist slogans, right, was trying to disturb the march that was held in condemnation of, among other things, the desecration of a monument to hundreds of Jews burned alive by their Polish neighbors during World War II. (AP Photo/ Michal Kosc) POLAND OUT

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — More than 100 people marched in a Polish city on Sunday to protest racist and anti-Semitic attacks in the area.

A small counter-demonstration also was held by people chanting nationalist slogans in the eastern city of Bialystok.

The "March of Unity," which was organized by lawmakers from the governing Civic Platform party, walked in silence from the city center to a monument of Ludwik Zamenhof, a Jewish doctor born in Bialystok, who invented the Esperanto language. The protesters gathered signatures under a manifesto calling for an end to a "wave of thoughtless hatred."

On Wednesday, a monument to hundreds of Jews who were burned alive by their Polish neighbors in Jedwabne village during World War II was desecrated. Vandals used green paint to spray a swastika and "SS" — the name of special Nazi German force — on the monument, along with the hostile phrases of "I don't apologize for Jedwabne" and "They were flammable."

Other recent anti-Semitic or racist attacks in Poland have targeted a synagogue in the village of Orla, a Muslim center in Bialystok, and the Lithuanian minority in the Punsk region.

Bialystok Mayor Tadeusz Truskolaski, nonaligned Sen. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and other lawmakers led the protest march.

It occurred without violence or arrests, despite the counter-demonstration.