Muslim girls in Poland to study Holocaust turned away from Lublin synagogue

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — A group of Muslim girls from Germany said they were prevented from entering a synagogue in Lublin while on a visit to Poland to study the Holocaust.

The girls claim they were refused entrance to the synagogue at the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva last week because they were wearing traditional Muslim headgear.

The Jewish community of Lublin has denied the claim, saying in a statement that the group was turned away because the hotel where the synagogue is located had been rented exclusively for “one of Europe’s” soccer teams.

According to the Polish media, the group’s leader called the synagogue to arrange a visit to the building. Upon arriving at the synagogue, the group was forbidden to enter. Instead the group received the keys to the gate of the 16th-century Jewish cemetery in Lublin, which it visited.

On June 21, the group of Muslim girls visited the state museum of Majdanek in Lublin. One of the Muslim girls said she was spit on by a local resident, insults were shouted at others and they also were turned away when they tried to buy bottles of water in a local shop. They said a request for police intervention was ignored.

A Lublin city spokesman, Andrzej Fijolek, told the Polish media on Tuesday that a preliminary investigation shows that the police officers did not behave inappropriately, saying the language barrier and background noise prevented them from understanding what the girls were talking about and that their description of the events did not indicate any criminal wrongdoing. The group also did not file an official complaint with police, he said.

The girls, children of Muslim immigrant families living in Berlin, were visiting Poland to learn about the Holocaust. They visited sites in Lodz, Warsaw and Lublin.

Lublin Mayor Krzysztof Żuk condemned the racist behavior in the city and said he would do everything he could to make Lublin a safe city. The case also will be examined by the Polish ombudsman.

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