WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities have arrested and charged three people with propagating fascism after a news program revealed details about a neo-Nazi group in Poland that celebrated Adolf Hitler in a ceremony last year, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Tuesday that the state would not tolerate any use of totalitarian symbols and he wants to see the neo-Nazi group outlawed.
The private news channel TVN24 broadcast an expose Saturday about "Pride and Modernity," a neo-Nazi group whose members dressed in Nazi uniforms and praised Hitler last spring on what would have been the German dictator's 128th birthday.
Poland was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II, and the existence of the pro-Hitler group has sparked shock and revulsion. About 6 million Polish citizens were killed in that conflict, while Polish cities were razed and the country's cultural heritage looted.
"In Poland we cannot have the slightest tolerance of Nazi, fascist or communist symbols," Morawiecki said at a news conference in Warsaw. "The use of them is against the law and against all of our values."
He also thanked the journalists who went undercover to document the activities of the neo-Nazi group, whose members chanted the "Sieg Heil" Nazi salute and praised Hitler at an altar in a wooded area at night as a swastika burned.
A spokeswoman for national prosecutors, Ewa Bialik, said that three suspected neo-Nazis were arrested and charged with propagating fascism, a crime that can carry a prison sentence of up to two years. She said one was found in possession of a weapon and ammunition.
A spokeswoman for district prosecutors in Gliwice, Joanna Smorczewska, said investigators also found fascist paraphernalia including Nazi uniforms. She said one of the suspects, identified only as Mateusz S., was the leader of the neo-Nazi group.
The World Jewish Congress on Monday said it welcomed "the Polish government's swift condemnation of this despicable celebration of Nazism and its rightful decision to open a criminal investigation."
But the organization's CEO Robert Singer said it should not be considered an isolated incident, noting that an ultra-nationalist rally on Poland's Independence Day in November drew 60,000 people, some of whom espoused white supremacist slogans.