With a reference to Nazi Germany, the PiS boss warns against German dominance in Europe. The agitation against the neighbors is supposed to bring votes to his party. Even the opposition is denounced as henchmen of the Germans.

When it comes to Germany, Jaroslaw Kaczynski becomes particularly spiteful. This is also the case in Legnica in Lower Silesia, where the powerful head of Poland’s national-conservative ruling party PiS gave an hour-and-a-half speech at the weekend. Germany is striving for dominance in Europe, Kaczynski warned his audience. And followed up: The Germans wanted to achieve today by peaceful means what they had once planned to do with military means.

The allusion to Nazi Germany is typical Kaczynski. For months he has been touring the country weekend after weekend and railing against Germany. Above all, this is based on a domestic political calculation: the PiS is plummeting in the polls, and Kaczynski hopes that anti-German tones will bring her voters.

In Legnica, the 73-year-old also dealt against Brussels. If you believe Kaczynski, then behind the EU is a plan by the Germans to create a “European state” where they will be in charge. But his party sees the strength of Europe in the diversity and sovereignty of the individual countries, stressed Kaczynski. “And a situation of dominance, a situation in which one of the European states – today the largest alongside Russia – is implementing by peaceful means those plans that it once wanted to implement with military means, is a path to crisis and misfortune.” This affects both Poland and Europe. “And also this country itself, namely Germany.”

Kaczynski does not hold any government office. And yet he is considered the strong man in Poland’s politics. Polish media like to write that he controls both Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda “from the back seat”. Together with his twin brother Lech, Jaroslaw Kaczynski founded the PiS in 2001. Lech Kaczynski later became Polish head of state, in 2010 he died in the crash of the presidential plane in Smolensk.

Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak recently experienced what Kaczynski’s “steering from the back seat” looks like. He had initially responded to the offer by Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) to protect Poland’s airspace by laying German Patriot anti-aircraft missiles. A day later, Kaczynski spoke up. German air defenses should be stationed in Ukraine rather than Poland, he suggested. Blaszczak politely repeated the idea shortly afterwards. And Kaczynski had achieved his goal: once again Warsaw had alienated the Germans. In addition, the PiS government is using its demand for more than 1.3 trillion euros in reparations for the damage suffered in World War II to stir up public sentiment against Berlin.

In Poland, the next parliamentary elections are scheduled for next autumn. It is questionable whether the PiS, which has been in power since 2015, can win the election for a third time in a row. The Poles are groaning under a horrendous inflation rate, which was almost 18 percent in November.

The polls are currently being conducted by the liberal-conservative opposition party Civic Platform (PO) of former EU Council President Donald Tusk. During his tenure as Polish head of government, things were going well between Warsaw and Berlin. Reason enough for Kaczynski to also put on Tusk the cloak of the bad German: “We have a German party in Poland,” he said in mid-November at a performance in the district town of Pabianice with a view to the PO.

In a dirty election campaign, the PiS used it once before to connect Donald Tusk with Germany. When the Danziger ran against Lech Kaczynski in the 2005 presidential election campaign, the PiS strategists circulated the story of Tusk’s “grandfather in the Wehrmacht”. Tusk’s grandfather Jozef was drafted into the Wehrmacht as a concentration camp prisoner in 1944 and soon defected to the Polish troops. The PiS trick worked: Tusk lost the election.

The obsession with which Kaczynski and his followers agitate against Germany and the allegedly German-dominated opposition is bearing strange fruit. When Germany’s national team played Costa Rica last Thursday at the World Cup in Qatar, Deputy Environment Minister Jacek Ozdoba asked for a break in the Polish parliament – so that the members of Tusk’s party could watch “the game of their German team”.