Don’t discriminate the Polish people

Verena feared a possible 'unwanted visit'  from 'Polish guys' when she decided to sue her landlord. Discrimating and offensive, argues Milosz Krasowski Alexander Pietrus-Rajman.

Dear Universiteitskrant editors,

We are writing to you to express our astonishment and disapproval for the article Verena is suing her landlord authored by Verena Rendel and published on January 7, 2014 in the Universiteitskrant. The author uses the sentence ‘I’ve heard of Polish guys coming to your apartment and paying you unwanted visits’ in her article, implying bandits involved in such crime are obviously Poles.

The sentence is yet another example of a problem highlighted in last year’s report prepared by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (an organ of the Council of Europe), namely that Poles in the Netherlands have become a new target group for discrimination. It is yet another example of appalling xenophobia, that if targeted any other nation – Turks, Brits, Moroccans, Indonesians or Germans – would cause immense turmoil and immediate legal action. To see the farce of the situation we urge you to replace ‘Polish guys’ in the article with, for example, ‘Israeli guys’ and see the effects for yourself.

Pure stereotype

First of all, the author states that if you do not agree with your landlord, you can face such difficulties as meeting ‘Polish guys’, who will likely do something undesired to you. This is a pure stereotype, and as admitted by the author in the comment section below the article, is sourced from ‘anecdotes heard from friends’. It states that if you have unwanted visits, then they are made by ‘Polish guys’.

It should be absolutely clear that such visits can be made by criminals regardless of where they come from or what language they speak. The phrasing used in the article is unfair and hurtful to all Poles, especially for the overwhelming majority who are not ‘Polish guys who will come to your flat’. In direct effect, because of such unthoughtful expressions, many honest Poles may now face difficulties with finding a flat for rent in Groningen, or anywhere else in the Netherlands. It is due to irrational opinions, like the one published in UK.

Moreover, this xenophobic opinion is even more inappropriate when we consider the reputation of Universiteitskrant in Groningen, which is regarded as a highly renowned newspaper edited by well-educated persons and aims to reach an intellectual audience, as evident by the affiliation with the University of Groningen. In our opinion such newspaper should not base its content on rumors and stereotypes, because it is not a tabloid. The article of Verena Rendel is contradicting what we understand to be the mission of UK and does not speak well of the future of this newspaper.

Criminality and suspicion rates

Furthermore, even if one were to assume that Poles are those who pay students unwanted visits in their own home, this argument should be supported with appropriate data and statistics about criminality. The graph below presents the criminality and suspicion rates for various nations living in the Netherlands (data taken from Centraal Bureau Statistiek/CBS).


The above data show the article of Verena Rendel was not well prepared, as her arguments are not only tactless, but fail to find any support in empirical data. The referenced statistics show that Poles living in the Netherlands display one of the lowest criminality rates among the whole immigrant society. This very fact shows that such an article is not only offensive, but also not aligned with reality and thus decreases the overall quality of the newspaper and value of its brand.

Finally, this statement might not only be offensive and disappointing to the Polish community, but also to other foreigners who form a large part of the country’s capital (especially in the student population). The Netherlands has a reputation of one of the most tolerant and safe countries in the world, such articles containing offensive statements of slander targeted at a specific nation may cause foreigners in the Netherlands to doubt the validity of this statement.


To summarize, the article published by Verena Rendel used an offensive and discriminatory sentence directed against the Polish people and all other nations which might feel disgusted with the vulgarity of the author. This hurts even more, when one realizes such an statement was published in a highly renowned magazine in such a tolerant country as the Netherlands, and was completely groundless and unsupported by facts. As extreme as this may sound, we should be aware that mere decades ago Germany allowed for such, at first innocent opinions about groups of people, which ultimately lead to the outburst of WWII and the holocaust.

We ask for removal of the article published by Verena Rendel. Moreover, we request official apologies from Verena Rendel and the team responsible for publishing this article, in order to correct the unjust statement made. The statement likely have had negative effects on how the readers and the Dutch society view Polish people, and gives silent acquiescence for discrimination. We also challenge the UK to publish the statistics mentioned in this letter – it would surely make up for what must have been an unintentional mistake on your part.

Respectfully yours,

Milosz Krasowski Alexander Pietrus-Rajman


Postscript UK

As Verena Rendel pointed out herself, she did not have the intention of offending anybody. She also pointed out that she wrote this sentence in her article because all people she talked to, independently brought up unwanted visits in relation to the people from Poland.  That made her include them in their blog.

Of course it is not the intention of the Universiteitskrant to offend people from Poland. If you really feel offended, we are sorry. Reading the UK on a regular basis, which you do I guess, you know we are not offensive and discriminatory to foreigners, on the contrary. Therefore, we will not remove the article. We publish your letter, we think it is more productive.

Hanneke Boonstra

editor in chief UK