Monday, June 6, 2016

Poland: Where a Star of David means 'fuck you'

Via Foward:
On our third day in Lodz we finally made it to the ghetto, to the building where Grandma Eva lived with her parents and two grandmothers for three years. We explored the site — the building grounds (we couldn’t go inside); the back courtyard that had been overflowing outhouses in the 1940s but was now a row of dilapidated garages; the cemented-over well where she had hidden when the soldiers rounded up children. Then we found the graffiti.

The building adjacent to 47 Franciskanska was located across a muddy vacant lot. One of its walls was entirely covered by the word Widzew . Polish graffiti lacked the swirly 3-D letters that graced abandoned buildings at home. Poles wrote in neat, blocky European print, and their graffiti letters were uncannily precise. Widzew was all straight, clean black lines, in a capitalized sans-serif font.


Back at the hotel, Grandma Eva headed straight upstairs to lie down. But Phoebe, Dad and I needed to get to the bottom of that graffiti star business. The Hotel Grand Lodz concierge, our expert, was at the front desk. I explained what we had seen in the ghetto and asked him what it meant, the Widzew and the LKS and the Stars of David.

“Well, first the words,” he said. “ Widzew and LKS are the two football teams of Lodz. Soccer, I guess you would say. Soccer is very big here.”

“But what about the Stars of David?” Dad asked. “How they would be spray-painted over the team names. I thought maybe it was anti-Semitic.”

“No, not anti-Semitic,” the concierge said. “An LKS fan will draw that over the word Widzew , and a Widzew fan will do the same to LKS. It is like a sign that you support the other team, like a, how do you say ?”

“So like a ‘f—k you?’ ” Phoebe suggested.

“Yes,” he said, smiling at her word choice. “Exactly. Like a ‘f—k you.’ ”

“So it’s not anti-Semitic to draw a Star of David — the symbol just holds the equivalence of ‘f—k you,’” I said.

“Exactly,” he said. Then he doubled back, absorbing my irony. “You have to understand that Polish people do not know what a Star of David means,” he said. “They don’t know what a Jew is. They have never met one. They don’t mean any harm in this.”

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