Member of Parliament Grzegorz Braun (C), of from the Confederation party, stands after extinguishing the Hanukkah candles with a fire extinguisher at the Polish parliament building in Warsaw, Poland, 12 December 2023. The Hanukkah menorah was lit to mark the start of the Jewish Hanukkah holiday and symbolize the victory of light over darkness. EPA-EFE/MARCIN OBARA POLAND OUT


Polish far-right firebrand MP expelled from Parliament after dousing Hanukkah candles with extinguisher


Polish Confederation party MP Grzegorz Braun caused outrage in Parliament by taking a fire extinguisher off the wall and using it to snuff out Hanukkah candles, calling the lighting of them “acts of satanic, racist triumphalism”.

His actions during a ceremony attended by Polish-Jewish leaders and Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne came ahead of a crucial vote of confidence on the approval of new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Following the incident on December 12, Braun was excluded by the House Speaker Szymon Hołownia from further sittings. In addition, he will lose half of his salary for three months and all parliamentary expenses for six months.

Braun’s behaviour has been condemned across the political spectrum and Hołownia has reported him to prosecutors for allegedly “disrespecting” religious symbols and customs.

The episode eclipsed the instalment of Tusk’s Government, which was being debated in Parliament at the time.

Proceedings were suspended as the Speaker and other senior officials tried to restore calm before the new coalition regime was finally given the vote of confidence later in the evening.

Braun justified his actions by claiming that the candles were a symbol of a Talmudic culture – relating to the primary source of Jewish religious law – that he claims to be racist.

“There can be no place for the acts of this racist, tribal, wild Talmudic cult on the premises of the Sejm,” he declared, amid loud booing from other MPs.

“You are not aware of the message of this act innocently called ‘Hanukkah’,” he continued. “I am restoring a state of normality by putting an end to acts of satanic, racist triumphalism, because that is the message of this festival.”

Hołownia, among the newly installed leaders of the ruling coalition, and Tusk himself, decried Braun’s actions as “a disgrace” and “totally unacceptable”.

Piotr Gliński, a deputy leader with the outgoing ruling PiS party, also slammed Braun’s actions as “crossing a terrible line”.

Livne shared a video of the incident online. “Shame,” he wrote.

US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzeziński said Braun’s actions must be condemned “most severely” as he said it was clearly anti-Semitic and an example of “vile hatred”.

Braun’s Confederation colleagues also expressed outrage over what happened. The party now faces a dilemma over what to do next.

That is particularly so given Braun is a prominent Catholic and nationalist MP with a considerable following among Poland’s right-wing fringe element for his anti-lockdown and anti-Ukrainian views.

Observers say party members have had plenty of warning of what might be coming. Braun previously disrupted a Holocaust lecture by storming the stageand smashing the microphone being used by the academic giving the talk. In that case, he referred to his political immunity and claimed that the situation was an emergency, thus avoiding possible arrest.

The Confederation party was already under pressure regarding Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a veteran enfant terrible of the Polish Right who, during the latest election campaign, argued that women getting the vote was a “retrograde step” and that sex with the under-aged was “no terrible thing”.

He has since been suspended from the party but, after Braun’s actions in Parliament, he took to social media to argue that the candle-snuffer was simply “making a stand for separating religion from the state”.

Korwin-Mikke’s words were seemingly aimed at the Left, whose members were apparently infuriated by Braun’s actions in Parliament but who have previously campaigned for the removal of the Christian cross from the parliamentary chamber and other public spaces.

The Confederation party is now facing pressure from others to take firm action, with some arguing that Krzysztof Bosak, one of the party’s leaders, should be removed from his office of Deputy Speaker of Parliament in response to Braun’s behaviour.