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Anti-Semitism in Poland and Eastern Europe

Professor Jan T. Gross reminds us about Polish cruelties against Jews


By B.John Zavrel




The Star of David--also known as the Seal of Solomon--is a generally recognized symbol of Judaism and Jewish identity, and is also known colloquially as the Jewish Star. Its usage as a sign of Jewish identity began in the Middle Ages. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Star of David on the flag of Israel has also become a symbol of Israel.

© Foto Meaus/Archive, USA



New York/Warsaw (bpb) Anti-Semitism in Europe is worse than cancer. It did not end with the Hitler Germany in 1945. Soon after World War II, in Poland the Jewish community had to suffer again very much. Many facts about this cruelty are brought to our mind at this time in a report of the International Herald Tribune of July 22, 2006. David Margolick reviews the book of Professor Jan T. Gross with the title "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz". This book of more than 300 pages, published by Random House, is a very important historical document.


During my visits to Europe, I came across again and again unbelievable opinions. What the governments officially say and demonstrate opn the one hand, is very different what many people think in their minds. Anti-semitism is found generally in all social circles, not only in the beer pubs. It is also seen in interviews with Polish people on TV and in radio. The arguments in Poland are: we don't want Jews back in our country. In the end, they request their old property back, and influence our Christian society. The everyday fact is: old Jewish families from Russia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Poland, who luckily survived the holocaust, have tremendous difficulties to get back their houses, land, art collections and bank accounta-- all that had been stolen from them by the various regimes. The only compensation to Jews is to be found in Germany. Thanks to the first German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and his pro-American and pro-Israel policy, the democratic Germany became a trustful friend of Israel and the western world.



Another distinctive symbol of Judaism since ancient times was the menorah.

© Foto Meaus/Archive, USA



Request to all of us for humanity

The report by Jan T. Gross requests all of us: never forget the cruelties against the Jews. He requested us to do everything possible to avoid any such kind inhumanity and murder. Holocaust should never, never, never happen again!

For more than half a century, what happened to the Jewish Holocaust survivors in Poland has been cloaked in guilt and shame. Writing with passion, brilliance, and fierce clarity, Jan T. Gross at last brings the truth to light. It is late, but not too late.

We should remember: Poland suffered a brutal Nazi occupation during the World War II. One million of Polish citizens lost their lives as a result. More than half the casualties were Polish Jews. Thus, the second largest Jewish community in the world&endash;-second only to American Jewry--which had numbered more than the three and a half million Polish Jews at the time, was wiped out. Over 90 percent of its members were killed in the Holocaust.

And yet, despite this unprecedented calamity that affected both Jews and non-Jews, Jewish Holocaust survivors returning to their hometowns in Poland after the war experienced widespread hostility, including murder, at the hands of their neighbors. It is reported: the bloodiest peacetime pogrom of the 20th century in Europe took place in the Polish town of Kielce one year after the war ended--on July 4, 1946. The Poles killed the Jews...

Jan Gross's "Fear" attempts to answer a perplexing question: how was anti-Semitism possible in Poland after the war? At the center of his investigation is a detailed reconstruction of the Kielce pogrom, and the reactions it evoked in various milieus of the Polish society. How did the Polish Catholic Church, the Polish Communist Party workers and intellectuals respond to the spectacle of Jews being murdered by their fellow citizens in a country that had just been liberated from a five-year Nazi occupation?

Gross argues that the anti-Semitism displayed in Poland in the war's aftermath cannot be understood simply as a continuation of prewar attitudes. Rather, it developed in the context of the Holocaust and the Communist takeover: anti-semitism eventually became a common currency between the Communist regime and a society in which many had joined in the Nazi campaign of plunder and murder--and for whom the Jewish survivors were a thorny reproach.



© PROMETHEUS 110/2006

PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin - News, Politics, Art and Science. Nr. 110, AUGUST 2006