Cardinal Józef Glemp, head of the Catholic Church in Poland between 1981-2009, died on Wednesday at 83. He had suffered from lung cancer and died in hospital.
Glemp was born in 1929 and became a priest in 1956. He headed the church in the 1980s, when martial law was declared in Poland in reaction to popular protests, leading up to the collapse of communist rule.
Glemp retired in 2009, but was still considered a leading figure in the church after his retirement.
Glemp’s controversial remarks about Jews have caused Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to call him an anti-Semite, for statements he made, including that Jews were “plying [Polish] peasants with alcohol” and “spreading communism,” and that they “control the mass-media in many countries.”
According to Dershowitz, Glemp “was forced to apologize” as the result of Dershowitz’s lawsuit against him.
Professor Joanna B. Michlic wrote that Glemp, among others, made ” many overt and covert references to Jews as the harmful other in Poland.”
Adam Michnik and David Ost determined that “By 1984, when Primate Glemp wrote and signed a new edition of Roman Dmowski’s 1927 pamphlet, Church, Nation, and State, one could not longer have any doubts regarding Glemp’s political sympathies: they lay with Dmowski’s Endecja political tendency, the major nationalist party in the interwar period known for its illiberal and authoritarian politics, support for a strong leader, advocacy of Catholicism as a state religion, and violent anti-Semitism.”
Historian Robert S. Wistrich also referred to Glemp’s relationship to Dmowski and attitudes towards Jews, writing that Glemp “warned Jews not to ‘talk to us from the position of a people raised above all’. The Cardinal, Poland’s leading Churchman, seemed to be presenting anti-Semitism as a legitimate self-defense against Jewish ‘anti-polonism.’ Deploring the attacks of ‘world Jewry’ on the poor nuns at Auschwitz, he admonished Jewish leaders in terms that seemed to echo the words of the pre-war National Democracy (Endecja) movement leader Roman Dmowski (one of Glemp’s heroes): ‘Your power lies in the mass media that are easily at your disposal in many countries. Let them not serve to spread anti-Polish feeling.’”
According to robert d. Mcfadden, writing in the New York Times in 1991, Glemp has “said he recognized that his widely publicized homily might have caused pain among Jews, and he expressed regret.”