Anti-Polish sentiment

German notice in German-occupied Poland, 1939: "No entry for Poles!"
Polish ten-year-old Kazimiera Mika with her sister, killed by the Germans, as photographed by American reporter Julien Bryan.[1][2] Hitler ordered the "destruction of the enemy" beyond military objectives: Nazi Germany classified Poles as "subhuman" and war crimes were committed against them from the outset of the invasion of Poland.[3]

Polonophobia,[4] anti-Polonism (Polish: Antypolonizm),[5] and anti-Polish sentiment are terms for a variety of hostile attitudes, prejudice, and actions against Polish people and Polish culture. These include racial prejudice against Poles and persons of Polish descent, ethnically-based discrimination, and state-sponsored mistreatment of Poles and the Polish diaspora.[6] This prejudice led to mass killings and genocide or it was used to justify atrocities[7] both during and after World War II, most notably by the German Nazis, Ukrainian nationalists and Soviet communists.

Nazi Germany's Directive No.1306 stated: "Polishness equals subhumanity. Poles, Jews and gypsies are on the same inferior level."[8] Nazi Germany killed an estimated 1.9 million ethnic Poles, of which over 70,000 where murdered in Auschwitz.[9]

Today, anti-Polish sentiment includes defamation and derogatory stereotyping of Poles as unintelligent and aggressive, as thugs, thieves, alcoholics, and as anti-Semites. It includes rising workplace discrimination and criminal violence against Poles.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16]


German concentration-camp badge with letter "P"—required wear for Polish inmates
German public execution of Poles in Rożki, near Radom, Poland, 1942

Forms of hostility toward Poles and Polish culture include:

  • Organized persecution of the Poles as a nation or as an ethnic group, often based on the belief that Polish interests are a threat to one's own national aspirations;
  • Racist anti-Polish sentiment, a variety of xenophobia;
  • Cultural anti-Polish sentiment: a prejudice against Poles and Polish-speaking persons – their customs, language and education; and
  • Stereotypes about Poland and Polish people in the media and popular culture.

A historic example of anti-Polish sentiment was polakożerstwo (in English, "the devouring of Poles") – a Polish term introduced in the 19th century in relation to the dismemberment and annexation of Poland by foreign powers. Polakożerstwo described the forcible suppression of Polish culture, education and religion on historically Polish lands, and the elimination of Poles from public life as well as from landed property. Anti-Polish policies were implemented by the German Empire under Otto von Bismarck, especially during the Kulturkampf, and enforced up to the end of World War I.[17] Organized persecution of Poles raged in the territories annexed by the Russian Empire, mainly under Tsar Nicholas II.[18][19] Historic actions inspired by anti-Polonism ranged from felonious acts motivated by hatred, to physical extermination of the Polish nation, the goal of which was to eradicate the Polish state. During World War II, when most of Polish society became the object of genocidal policies of its neighbours, German anti-Polonism led to an unprecedented campaign of mass murder.[20]

At present, among those who often express their hostile attitude towards the Polish people are some Russian politicians and their far-right political parties who search for a new imperial identity.[21]

Anti-Polish stereotypes

In Russian language, the term mazurik (мазурик), a synonym for "pickpocket", "petty thief",[22] literally means "little Masovian".[23] The word is an example how Vladimir Putin's liberal use of colloquialisms has been catching attention of the media.[24]

The "Polish plumber" cliché may symbolize the threat of cheap labor from poorer European countries to "overtake" jobs in wealthier parts of Europe. On the other hand, others associate it with affordability and dependability of European migrant workers.[25]

Drunkenness is associated with Polish people in several European cultures; the French language has the phrase ‘drunk as a Pole’ (« soul comme un Polonais »), while German uses the phrase ‘drunk as a Pole on pay day’ (“betrunken wie ein Pole am Zahltage“).[26]

In Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture, American-Polish author Danusha Goska focuses on the relationship between the "twin" stereotypes of the anti-Semitic Shylock and the anti-Polish 'Bieganski', who is "strong, stupid, violent, fertile, anarchic, dirty," and whose "special hatefulness is epitomized by their Polish anti-Semitism."[27] She says that 'bestial' Poles have become more vilified as killers of Jews than the 'elite' German Nazis themselves.[28]