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Thousands turn out in Poland for murdered mayor

After the Christian mayor of a famous city in Poland died last week, the Jewish community around the world is mourning his loss.  Paweł Adamowicz died after an attacker stabbed him at a charity concert last weekend.

Adamowicz, served as mayor of Gdansk, Poland since 1998. He was 53. The late mayor is considered a great friend of the Jewish community. Gdansk is the city  made famous in Poland’s efforts to break free of its Communist overseers in the 1970s and 80 through the work of its strong unions.

Adamowicz was attending a charity concert organized by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Foundation when as assailant ran on stage and stabbed Adamowicz several times with a knife.

Thousands witnessed the violent attack. Adamowicz was rushed to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

The perpetrator was arrested and has a long criminal history.

The World Jewish Congress said Adamowicz was faithful in the fight against Anti-Semitism in Poland.

“He was a true friend of the Jewish community, speaking loudly and clearly against antisemitism in Poland,” WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement. “This was an attack not just on the mayor, but on the very value of tolerance.”

The  AJC Central Europe echoed the World Jewish Congress’ remarks.

“He was a true friend & ally in countering xenophobia. We must confront hatred in the public sphere,” AJC Central Europe tweeted.

Adamowicz was a vocal critic of anti-Semitism and condemned last year’s Polish law on Holocaust speech, which criminalized rhetoric that blames Poland for Nazi crimes.

Jerzy Owsiak, the founder of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, resigned after the attack.

“Let’s be Poles who love one another. Let’s be Poles who are friends to one another. Let’s be Poles who have no violence towards one another,” said Owsiak during a press conference in Warsaw. “To think that this act of violence took place in my hometown. … I am shaken.”

Thousands of people filled the streets Sunday, Jan. 21 for the funeral. The European council president, Donald Tusk, a friend of Adamowicz, was among those attending the burial at the vast Gothic St Mary’s Basilica. Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, and the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, also attended along with former leaders including Lech Wałęsa.

Other dignitaries included the former German president Joachim Gauck and city mayors from other countries. The black urn with the mayor’s ashes will be laid to rest at one of the basilica’s chapels.