President's wreath placed at Warsaw University to mark 1968 protests

A wreath from Polish President Andrzej Duda was placed at a commemorative plaque near the entrance to the University of Warsaw's main campus on Friday to mark the 1968 student protests that triggered an anti-Semitic campaign by the then communist government.

The so-called March events were characterised by student protests, a political crisis and an ensuing power struggle within the communist party against the background of an anti-Semitic campaign.

The March 1968 events embraced a series of major protests against the government of the Polish People's Republic launched by students, intellectuals and other social groups. The countrywide student protests, initially called out against the authorities' ban of an anti-Russian drama by Poland's national bard Adam Mickiewicz and the expulsion of two Jewish-Polish students - one of them later anti-communist opposition leader Adam Michnik - from the University of Warsaw, were suppressed by security forces in all major academic centres across the country. The government responded with a mass anti-Jewish campaign branded as "anti-Zionist," which resulted in the mass emigration of Jews from Poland.

"The March events were preceded by internal power struggle in the top ranks of the communist authorities," the President's Office said in a statement.

The campaign was triggered by a faction of younger members of the communist party who wanted to seize power from more established members, many of whom were of Jewish descent, the President Office also said.

The 1968 events caused a heavy rift in Poland's communist party and were a prelude to the 1970 worker protests in northern Poland which toppled Poland's communist party leader Władysław Gomułka. The protests coincided with the so-called Prague Spring in neighbouring Czechoslovakia, which culminated in the Warsaw Pact's invasion of the country on August 20, 1968.