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Sunday October 25 2009

At least half the point of conferences like this annual LA/LI gathering that I’m now at, is meeting the other attenders, and as if to prove this fact, I now realise that one of the most interesting things I heard on day one of this conferenc yesterday was told to me not by any of the official speakers, but by a bunch of Poles with whom I shared a table at the evening dinner.

At first, the conversation was the usual banter.  I visited Warsaw in 1984, under circumstances that were a mixture, for me, of comical and humiliating, and I got a few laughs with that.  The Poles responded with lots more jokes, with the mere memory of Communism still serving as a rich source of comedy.

But then the conversation got more serious.  I recently read - I don’t recall where – some stuff about Polish anti-Semitism, and, I forget how or what precise connection, I cautiously asked about that.  In response, I was told about the following set of highly unusual historical circumstances.

Before the Second World War, there were many Jews living in Poland, not least because in the past, the treatment of Jews in Poland was better than it was in quite a few other European countries.  And, the Jews of those times being the Jews of those times (i.e., arguably, the most talented and industrious group of super-high-achievers in the entire history of the human species), the Jews of Poland excelled at just about everything.  Politics all across the spectrum, the media, business, science, the arts, the works.  And there were, of course, a quite large number of high-profile Jewish Communists.

For reasons that, it so happens, were not explain but which are not hard to guess about, a quite large number of Communists were expelled from Poland just before the start of the Second World War, including all those Jewish Communists.  These Communists went to Russia.

Then, the Second World War.  To cut a long and horrible story very short, the Nazis then murdered all the remaining Jews in Poland

After the Second World War, Communism was imposed by the USSR upon Poland, and to do the imposing, all those Communists who had taken refuge in Russia returned, including many Jews.

So it was that during the decade following the Second World War, the people of Poland only had one direct experience of Jews.  Basically, all the Jews they had any dealings with were Communist Bastards, active imposers of Communism, on behalf of the USSR, upon the people of Poland.  In 1958 (or around then – that date may be a bit wrong) there was a purge, and the Jewish Communists were again expelled, this time most of them going West, including quite a few to Britain.

After that, very few Jews lived in Poland.  Which meant that the only direct experience of Jews that the Polish people have had since has remained the memory of those Communist Bastards.

Not all Communist Bastards were Jews.  But an appallingly high proportion of Polish Jews were Communist Bastards.

In such circumstances anti-semitism makes quite a lot of sense.  It is still not nice.  But, it is thoroughly understandable.

Is that story, as I have just told it, very approximately, correct?  My Polish acquaintances themselves emphasised that they were simplifying an inevitably quite complicated story - not all the Communist Jews were expelled, not all the non-Communist Jews who remained were murdered by the Nazis, and so on.  But as a first approximation, so to speak, is the above historical sketch broadly accurate?

Is it true that before the Second World War, Polish anti-Semitism was (a) not that virulent and (b) less virulent than it subsequently became?

I’ve now done a bit of googling, and here is something relevant.  Polish anti-Semitism in the early twentieth century was quite bad, it says.  And re the connection between post-WW2 Communism and Jewishness, there is this:

Polish nationalists opposed to the 4 decades of Communist rule identified their oppressors as being of Jewish origin. Some Communist leaders had been of Jewish background but the stereotype belied statistics. And the Communist leaders of Jewish heritage had rejected their Jewish identity. Then in 1968 the Communist government expelled the majority of the Jews who had remained in Poland, some 20,000 people.

Right away there, we see that the Nazis did not murder all the Jews.  But 20,000 does indeed not sound like very many compared to how many Jews there were in Poland before WW2.  But the expulsion of Communists before the war to Russia, and the subsequent prominence of Jewish Communist, compared to other prominent sorts of Jews, is not mentioned.  If my Polish history teachers last night were approximately right, that seems a significant omission.

You want to know the truth?
Look up numbers - how many Jews lived in Poland before Soviets’ occupation (or the Eastern Polish lands)? How many after? How many Jews lived in Poland before and after Nazis’ occupation? What percentage of Jews were ratted on to nazis or killed by their Polish (Slavic) neighbors? Look up not just percentage of Righteous (official name for +Rescuers of Jews @Yad Vashem) among the country’s population - look at the number of people they saved - and then compare it to the number of Jews in Poland at the time. It’s minuscule.

Poles love to put the blame on anybody but them - to Nazis, when it doesn’t quite work - to Ukrainians and other Slavs (there is this popular opinion that only Polish citizen of Ukrainian origin were involved in extermination of Jewish Poles), or to Communism. Ask yourself this simple question: if Polish people in the 50s and 60s realized who was the culprit of Communism and expelled whole 20,000 Jews as communists - ok, now they are free of the plaque, aren’t they? They become western-type democracy? Whoops - no they didn’t. And who were now, in the absence Jews, hold all the government posts - communist government, don’t forget - and continue their grip of the country right into the 80’s? Poles. Poles. Poland was a socialist country, it became thus because half of its population (at least, probably more) WANTED it to become socialist, Jews or no Jews. Yes, Soviet rifles helped that half during and after the war - but for 40 year Poles lived under their own socialist government, spoke the same socialist rhetoric, had the same socialist economy, same institutions (including secret services) as the “mainland” - it’s a bit too convenient to hang it all on the Jews - whom they have expelled 30 years prior. Besides, Jews really might be all-powerful, omnipotent, universal force, if 20,000 people could subvert multi-million country into a political system the country doesn’t want. And for that country to remain socialistic even after supposed socialists are expelled - oh my, Jewish powers tramp everything! They must have had those secret Jewish Rays - it’s all true!
Btw, Britain, as far as I know, gave POland up to Stalin in 1945 or 46’ despite their promises to their allies, to Polish Army, who fraught bravely - and to Polish government in exile.  Or maybe this, too, is somehow Jewish fault? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it. As the rest of the crap you just recited.

Brian, there is no Jews in Poland anymore - they have exterminated their Jews- who had lived in Poland for 300 years. They did it themselves. There are no more Jews in Poland, but there is Jew-hatred. That is alive and well. Even in Poles who were born and raised outside of Poland.


Posted by Tatyana on 25 October 2009

More food for your thought

Posted by Tatyana on 25 October 2009

Thinking about this post a bit more:
that’s nice of you that you want to examine your new friends’ stories. Why not start by typing @Google “History of Jews in Poland”, simple as that?
The first link - yes, I know it’s Wiki - but you don’t seem to know even basic facts that are listed there - is this.
With plenty of links to go from there, to answer your quest.

Posted by Tatyana on 25 October 2009


he’s only asking.

Posted by Trooper Thompson on 26 October 2009

TT: and I only answered.

Posted by Tatyana on 26 October 2009

Tatyana, do you not think Polish anti-semitism *now* mainly exists among older, Catholic, anti-communist types? Or are young Poles equally anti-semitic and choose to express it in a different way? I agree that we can’t attribute anti-semitism entirely to the historical circumstances Brian has cited--this is not just about the memory of Communist Bastards--so it would seem plausible that it’s not just an old-fashioned stereotype. But I don’t want it to be true…

I knew some Israelis who visited Auschwitz a couple of years ago, and they were instructed not to speak in Hebrew. Also some local youths threw stones and gave Hitler salutes. I don’t suppose we can deduce much from a mere anecdote, but it doesn’t inspire confidence.

...I wish I’d got in on that Polish history lesson, in any case!

Posted by Liberty on 26 October 2009

“historical circumstances”, that Brian relayed, are not historical at all; it’s a fiction propagated by anti-Semites.
By saying “it’s a [...]memory of communist bastards” you silently accept as true that Jews=Communists. It is a lie.

Please spend a few minutes and look into the wiki article I linked.
P.S. You answered your question with your own example, I think.

Posted by Tatyana on 26 October 2009

Tatyana is wrong.
These 20 000 Jews expelled in 1968 were mostly communists. There were 2 fractions in Polish Communist Party and one of them used anti-semitism as a weapon (they remined all atrocities done by Jews-Communists in 1945-1956).
Polish Resistance (1939-1945) hero General Nil was arrested by communists after the war and sentenced to death for anticommunism. There were 17 communist lawyers (policemen,prosecutors, judges) involved - ALL of them were Jews.

Why the majority of European Jews was living in Poland before WWII - were they masochist? Or other countries were even less friendly for them?

Posted by Christopher on 01 November 2009

Christopher—Why is Israel surrounded by countries full of people who hate Jews? It’s obviously not because, say, America is less friendly for them. It’s perfectly plausible that a country with stronger Jewish presence is also going to have a strong anti-semitic movement.

Posted by Liberty on 04 November 2009
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