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Żydokomuna (Polish for "Judeo-communism," "Judeo-Bolshevism," or "Yid-Communism,"—literally "Jewish commune") is a pejorative antisemitic stereotype which came into use between World Wars I and II, blaming Jews for the rise of communism in Polandmarker, where communism was identified as part of a wider Jewish-led conspiracy to seize power.

The idea of Żydokomuna continued to endure to a certain extent in post-war Poland, because Polish anti-communists saw the Soviet-backed communist rise to power as the fruition of pre-war anti-Polish agitation; and with it came the implication of Jewish responsibility. The appointment of Jews in positions responsible for oppressing the populace further fueled this perception.

Żydokomuna survives in the post-Soviet era primarily in rhetoric on the political fringe. However, in the minds of others the contentions of some Polish historians regarding Jewish disloyalty to Poland under the Soviets raises the specter of Żydokomuna.

Prelude

The concept of a Jewish conspiracy threatening Polish social order dates in print to the pamphlet Rok 3333 czyli sen niesłychany (The Year 3333, or the Incredible Dream) by Polish Enlightenment author and political activist Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, written in 1817 and published posthumously in 1858. Called "the first Polish work to develop on a large scale the concept of an organized Jewish conspiracy directly threatening the existing social structure," it describes a Warsawmarker of the future renamed Moszkopolis after its Jewish ruler. (See "Judeopolonia" article for more.)

At the end of the 19th century, Roman Dmowski's National Democratic party characterized Poland's Jews and other opponents of Dmowski's party as internal enemies who were behind international conspiracies inimical to Poland and who were agents of disorder, disruption and socialism. Historian Antony Polonsky writes that before World War I "The National Democrats brought to Poland a new and dangerous ideological fanaticism, dividing society into 'friends' and 'enemies' and resortingconstantly to conspiratorial theories ("Jewish-Masonic plot"; "Żydokomuna"—"Jew-communism") to explain Poland's difficulties." Meanwhile, Jews played into National Democratic rhetoric by affirming themselves as alien through their participation in exclusively Jewish organizations such as the Bund and the Zionist movement.

Origin

The term Żydokomuna originated in connection with the Russian Bolshevik Revolution and became a prominent antisemitic stereotype expressing political paranoia and targeting Jewish communists during the Polish-Soviet War. The Russian revolution and emerging Sovietmarker regime was seen by many Poles as Russian imperialism in a new guise. The visibility of Jews in both the Soviet leadership and in the Polish Communist Party further heightened such fears. According to Jaff Schatz, the strength of the Żydokomuna belief stemmed from age-old Polish fears of Russia and from anti-communist and antisemitic attitudes. Schatz writes that "because anti-Semitism was one of the main forces that drew Jews to the Communist movement, Żydokomuna meant turning the effects of anti-Semitism into a cause of its further increase." Żydokomuna boosted antisemitism by amplifying ideas about an alleged "Jewish world conspiracy." According to this thinking, Bolshevism and communism became "the modern means to the long-attempted Jewish political conquest of Poland; the Żydokomuna conspirators would finally succeed in establishing a 'Judeo-Polonia.'"

Accusations of Żydokomuna accompanied a wave of anti-Jewish violence in Poland during the years 1918-1920, when violence against Jews was legitimized as Polish national self-defense against a people who were oppressors of the Polish nation. Some soldiers and officers in the Polish eastern territories shared the conviction that Jews were enemies of the Polish nation-state and were collaborators with Poland's enemies. Some of these troops treated all Jews as Bolsheviks. This Żydokomuna paranoia led to violence and killings of Jews in a number of towns, including the Pinsk massacre, in which 35 innocent Jews were murdered, and the Lwów pogrom, in which 72 Jews were murdered. Occasional instances of Jewish support for Bolshevism during the Polish-Soviet War served to heighten the stereotype.

The concept of Żydokomuna was exploited in propaganda by Poland's interwar National Democrats. Publications of the Catholic Church in Poland also commonly expressed anti-Jewish views. Though Jews were well represented in the Polish Communist Party, Jewish communists were a minuscule political and social group with little actual influence in the Polish-Jewish community or Poland as a whole.

During World War II, the term Żydokomuna was made to resemble the Jewish-Bolshevism rhetoric of Nazi Germany, wartime Romaniamarker and other war-torn countries of Central and Eastern Europe. A number of historians, such as Jan T. Gross and Andre Gerrits, maintain that there was a strong tradition of anti-Semitism which provided a base for Żydokomuna to feed upon.

Interbellum



The National Democrats (Endeks) emerged from the 1930 Polish elections to Sejm as the main opposition party to the Piłsudski government. Piłsudski had a liberal attitude towards minorities, and was respected by much of the Polish Jewish minority. In the midst of the Great Depression and in a climate of widespread nationalist and antisemitic sentiment, the Endeks launched an anti-Jewish campaign aimed at exploiting dissatisfaction with the government at a time of economic crisis. The anti-Jewish agitation included calls for reducing the numbers of Jews in the country and an economic boycott (launched in 1931), leading to outbreaks of violence against Jews, particularly at universities. Following the death of Piłsudski in 1935, the Endeks moved towards seizing power in Poland, and began to exploit the "Jewish question" in full. The Endeks and other parties on the right employed the old Żydokomuna stereotype alongside a new slogan, Folksfront, both signifying an alleged alliance between Jews and communists. While there was a limited audience for Endek propaganda, it was supplemented by the much larger circulation enjoyed by Catholic Church publications, which increasingly referred to the communist threat and the alleged "Godlessness" of the Jews. One antisemitic Church newspaper alone, the Samoobrona Narodu ("Self-Defense of the Nation," which meant defense against Jews), had a circulation of over one million.

In the period between the two world wars, the Żydokomuna myth grew concurrently in Poland with the myth of the "criminal Jew." Statistics from the 1920s had indicated a Jewish crime rate that was well below the percentage of Jews in the population. However, a subsequent reclassification of how crime was recorded—which now included minor offenses—succeeded in reversing the trend, and Jewish criminal statistics showed an increase relative to the Jewish population by the 1930s. These statistics were used by the Polish antisemitic press to propagate an image of the "criminal Jew;" additionally, political crimes by Jews were magnified, creating a perception of a criminal Żydokomuna.

Another important factor was the perceived dominance of Jews in the leadership of the Communist Party of Poland (KPP). As noted by historian Joseph Marcus, the KPP should not be considered a "Jewish party," as it was in fact in opposition to traditional Jewish economic and national interests. The Jews supporting KPP saw themselves as international communists and rejected much of the Jewish culture and tradition. Nonetheless, the KPP, along with the Polish Socialist Party, was notable for its decisive stand against anti-semitism. Notably, the party had strong Jewish representation at higher levels. Out of fifteen leaders of the KPP central administration in 1936, eight were Jews. Jews constituted 53% of the "active members" of the KPP, 75% of its "publication apparatus," 90% of the "international department for help to revolutionaries" and 100% of the "technical apparatus" of the Home Secretariat. In Polish court proceedings against communists between 1927 and 1936, 90% of the accused were Jews. In terms of membership, before its dissolution in 1938, 25% of KPP members were Jews; most urban KPP members were Jews—a substantial number, given an 8.7% Jewish minority in prewar Polandmarker.

According to Jaff Schatz's summary of Jewish participation in the prewar Polish communist movement:
Throughout the whole interwar period, Jews constituted a very important segment of the Communist movement.
According to Polish sources and to Western estimates, the proportion of Jews in the KPP [the Communist Party of Poland] was never lower than 22 percent.
In the larger cities, the percentage of Jews in the KPP often exceeded 50 percent and in smaller cities, frequently over 60 percent.
Given this background, a respondent's statement that "in small cities like ours, almost all Communists were Jews," does not appear to be a gross exaggeration.


Research on voting patterns in Poland's parliamentary elections in the 1920s has shown that Jewish support for the communists was proportionally less than their representation in the total population. Support for Poland's communist and pro-Soviet parties came largely from Ukrainian and Orthodox Belarusian voters. Schatz notes that even if post-war claims by Jewish communists that 40% of the 266,528 communist votes on several lists of front organizations at the 1928 Sejm election came from the Jewish community were true (a claim Marcus describes as "almost certainly an exaggeration"), this would amount to no more than 5% of Jewish votes for the communists, indicating the Jewish population at large was "far from sympathetic to communism." In the end, while most Jews were neither communists nor communist sympathizers, a substantial and quite visible portion of the Polish Communist leadership in the interwar period were Jews. However, research by Jeffrey Koppstein and Jason Wittenberg, who analyzed the communist vote in interwar Poland, has shown that the notion of the "communist Jew" was a myth at the mass level. The authors note that not only were most communists not Jews, but most Jews were not communists, and in fact "Jews were no more communist than the Catholic Poles, and far less so than the Belarusans or Ukrainians." Nonetheless it was the disproportionately large representation of Jews in the communist leadership led to the Żydokomuna myth being widely used in the propaganda of the Endeks.

World War II

Following the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, resulting in the partition of Polish territory between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (USSR), Jewish communities in eastern Poland welcomed with some relief the Soviet occupation, which they saw as a "lesser of two evils" from openly antisemitic Nazi Germany. The image of Jews among the Belorussian and Ukrainain minorities waving red flags to welcome Soviet troops had great symbolic meaning in Polish memory of the period. Young Jews joined or organized communist militias, others organized a new, communist, temporary self-government. Such militias often disarmed and arrested Polish soldiers, policemen and other authority figures; often, Poles and the Polish states were mocked. In the days and weeks following the events of September 1939, the Soviets engaged in a crash policy of Sovietization. Polish schools and other institutions were closed, Poles were dismissed from jobs of authority, often arrested and deported, and replaced with non-Polish personnel. Before the war, Poles had a privileged position. In the space of a few days, this changed. Jews and other minorities from within Poland occupied positions in the Soviet occupation government—such as teachers, civil servants and engineers—that they had trouble achieving under the Polish government. What to majority of Poles was occupation and betrayal, to some Jews, especially to Polish communists of Jewish descent, who emerged from the underground, was an opportunity for revolution and retribution. There were even some extreme cases of Jewish participation in massacres of ethnic Poles such as Massacre of Brzostowica Mała. This strengthened the myth of Żydokomuna, which would hold Jews responsible for the introduction of communism in Poland. Such behavior affronted non-Jewish Poles, who likely exaggerated Jewish participation in the Soviet occupation because a Jewish presence in the government apparatus was a novel phenomenon in pre-war Poland.Such events implanted in the Polish collective memory the image of Jewish crowds greeting the invading Red Army as liberators, and willing collaborators, further strengthening the antisemitic żydokomuna myth. "The relations between the Poles and the Jews are at present markedly worse than before the war" - noted a Polish observer in Stryj in June 1940. Niall Ferguson wrote: "The entire Polish population adopted a negative attitude towards the Jews because of their blatant cooperation with the Bolsheviks and their hostility against non-Jews...the people simply hate the Jews.".

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, belief in the Żydokomuna stereotype, combined with the German Nazi encouragement for expression of anti-Semitic attitudes, was a principal cause of massacres of Jews by gentile Poles in Poland's northeastern Łomżamarker province in the summer of 1941, including the massacre at Jedwabnemarker.

Though some Jews had initially benefited from the effects of the Soviet invasion, this occupation soon began to strike at the Jewish population as well; independent Jewish organizations were abolished and Jewish activists were arrested. Hundreds of thousands of Jews who had fled to the Soviet sector were given a choice of Soviet citizenship or returning to the German occupied zone. The majority chose the latter, and instead found themselves deported to the Soviet Union, where ironically, 300,000 would escape the Holocaust. While there was Polish Jewish representation in the London-based Polish government in exile, relations between the Jews in Poland and Polish resistance in occupied Poland were strained, and Jewish armed groups had difficulty joining the official Polish resistance umbrella organization, the Armia Krajowa (AK). Some Jewish groups (such as the Bielski partisans) were forced to rob local Polish peasants for food; in turn, the Polish underground often labeled those armed Jewish groups fighting for survival in the forests as "bandits" and "robbers." Jewish partisans instead more often joined the Armia Ludowa of the communist Polish Workers' Party and Soviet guerrilla groups, which increasingly clashed with Polish guerillas; contributing to yet another perception of Jews working with the Soviets against the Poles.

War's aftermath

The Soviet-backed communist government was as harsh towards non-communist Jewish cultural, political and social life as they were towards Polish. Thousands of Jews returned from exile in Soviet Union; among them were a small number of Jewish communists who played a minor, but highly visible, role in the unpopular communist government and its security apparatus. The new government's hostility to the wartime Polish exile government and resistance—which it accused of being nationalist, reactionary and antisemitic—further strengthened the myth of Żydokomuna, to the point where in the popular consciousness Jewish Bolshevism was seen as having conquered Poland. It was in this context, reinforced by the immediate post-war lawlessness, that Poland experienced an unprecedented wave of anti-Jewish violence (of which most notable was the Kielce pogrom).

The Polish-American historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz stressed that after the Soviet takeover of Poland in 1945 violence had developed amid postwar retribution and counter-retribution, exacerbated by the breakdown of law and order and a Polish anti-Communist insurgency. According to Chodakiewicz, some Jewish "avengers" endeavored to extract justice from the Poles who harmed Jews during the War and in some cases Jews attempted to reclaim property confiscated by the Nazis. These phenomena further reinforced the stereotype of Żydokomuna, a Jewish-Communist conspiracy in post-war Poland. Chodakiewicz noted that after World War Two, the Jews were not only victims, but also aggressors. He describes cases in which Jews cooperated with the Polish secret police, denouncing Poles and members of the Home Army. Chodakiewicz noted that some 3500 to 6500 Poles died in late 1940s because of Jewish denunciations or were killed by Jews themselves.

Regarding this period, Andre Gerrits writes, in his study of the myth, that though communism was now a reality in Poland,

The vigor of antisemitism during the first post-war decade cannot be exclusively attributed to the prominent role of individuals of Jewish extraction in the newly-established Communist regimes.
Various factors played a role—from the continuation of traditional anti-Jewish sentiments (ethnically or religiously inspired) to the overall radicalizing effect of the war and the fear that the Jews who returned from camps, exile or hiding would reclaim their [property].


The combination of the effects of the Holocaust and postwar antisemitism led to a dramatic mass emigration of Polish Jewry in the immediate postwar years. Of the estimated 240,000 Jews in Poland in 1946, only 90,000 remained a year later. The surviving Jews of Poland found themselves victims of the explosive postwar political situation. The image of the Jew as a threatening outsider took on a new form as antisemitism was now linked to the imposition of communist rule in Poland, and rumors of massive collaboration of Jews with the unpopular new regime and the Soviet Union. Of the fewer than 80,000 Jews who remained in Poland, many had political reasons for doing so; according to one historian, "their group profile ever more closely resembled the mythic Żydokomuna."

1950s

During Stalinism, the preferred Soviet policy was to keep sensitive posts in the hands of non-Poles. As a result "all or nearly all of the directors (of the widely despised Ministry of Public Security of Poland) were Jewish" as noted by Polish journalist Teresa Torańska among others. A recent study by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance showed that out of 450 people in director positions in the Ministry between 1944 and 1954, 167 (37.1%) were of Jewish ethnicity, while Jews made up approximately 1% of the post-war Polish population.

These Jewish members of the security forces would become useful as scapegoats in the period of de-Stalinization. According to one account:
While Poland’s communists had been highly selective in their choice of Jewish scapegoats after Stalin’s death, if only because other Jews in the party and security apparatus could not be excluded from participating in the whole process, and the desire of the leadership to keep a tight grip on the scope of the ensuing investigations, there is further evidence to suggest that Poland’s communists had grown accustomed to placing the burden of their own failures to gain sufficient legitimacy among the Polish population during the entire communist period on the shoulders of Jews in the party.


Among the notable Jewish officials of the Polish secret police and security services were Julia Brystiger, Anatol Fejgin, Józef Światło, Roman Romkowski, and Józef Różański; Światło defected to the West in 1953, while Romkowski and Różański would find themselves among the Jewish scapegoats for Polish Stalinism in the political upheavals following Stalin's death. While Jews were overrepresented in various Polish communist organizations, including the security apparatus, relative to their percentage of the general population, the vast majority of Jews did not participate in the Stalinist apparatus, and indeed most were not supportive of communism. The categorization of the security forces as a Jewish institution, as disseminated in the post-war anti-communist press at various times, is biased and rooted in a belief in Żydokomuna. Krzysztof Szwagrzyk has quoted Jan T. Gross, who argued that many Jews who worked for the communist party cut their ties with their culture—Jewish, Polish or Russian—and tried to represent the interests of international communism only, or at least that of the local communist government. Nonetheless, the inaccurate belief that the secret police was a predominantly Jewish institution was one of the factors keeping the Żydokomuna myth alive and contributed to the post-war stereotype of Jews as agents of the secret police.

The Żydokomuna myth and scapegoating of Jews reappeared at times of severe political and socioeconomic crises in Stalinist Poland. After the death of Polish United Workers' Party leader Bolesław Bierut in 1956, a de-Stalinization and a subsequent battle among rival factions looked to lay blame for the excesses of the Stalin era. As described in one historical account, the party hardline "Natolin" faction "once again used anti-Semitism as a political weapon and found an echo both in the party apparat and in society at large, where traditional stereotypes of an insidious Jewish cobweb of political influence and economic gain resurfaced, but now in the context of 'Judeo-communism,' the Żydokomuna." "Natolin" leader Zenon Nowak entered the concept of "Judeo-Stalinization" and placed the blame for the party's failures, errors and repression on "the Jewish apparatchiks." Documents from this period chronicle antisemitic attitudes within Polish society, including beatings of Jews, loss of employment, and persecution. These outbursts of antisemitic sentiment from both Polish society and within the rank and file of the ruling party spurred the exodus of some 40,000 Polish Jews between 1956 and 1958.

1968

Perversely, the old stereotype of Żydokomuna was even reignited by Polish state propaganda during the anti-semitic 1968 March crisis. As historian Dariusz Stola notes, the anti-Jewish campaign combined century-old conspiracy theories, recycled anti-semitic claims and classic communist propaganda. Regarding the tailoring of the Żydokomuna myth to communist Poland, Stola writes:
"Paradoxically, probably the most powerful slogan of the communist propaganda in March was the accusation that the Jews were zealous communists.
They were blamed for a major part, if not all, of the crimes and horrors of the Stalinist period.
The myth of Judeo-bolshevism had been well known in Poland since the Russian revolution and the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1920, yet its 1968 model deserves interest as a tool of communist propaganda.
This accusation exploited and developed the popular stereotype of Jewish communism to purify communism: the Jews were the dark side of communism; what was wrong in communism was due to them."


1989–present

Post-communist Poland experienced what has been described as a sudden, intense and widespread outburst of anti-Jewish mood, including allegations that Jews were to blame for Poland's "decline" during the communist years, and Jew-baiting of political opponents during election campaigns. More recent efforts have emerged from a wide range of sources in the Polish community to challenge these conceptions of Jews and to foster a pluralistic society in Poland.

The expression Żydokomuna is now used almost exclusively by fringe nationalists, usually in reference to former communist party members and to "liberals" who have supported capitalist reforms, globalization and European integration. Organizations attacked as "Żydokomuna" have included the SLD and UW political parties, and Gazeta Wyborcza, whose editor-in-chief, Adam Michnik, is of Jewish origin.

Historian Omer Bartov has written that "recent writings and pronouncements seem to indicate that the myth of the Żydokomuna (Jews as communists) has not gone away" as evidenced by the writings of younger Polish scholars, such as Marek Chodakiewicz, contending Jewish disloyalty to Poland during the Soviet occupation.

On July 11, 2009, several hundred Polish neo-Nazi sympathizers marched on the streets of Warsawmarker, shouting out slogans such as "National-Socialism", "Down with Jewish chauvinism" and "Down with the Jewish occupation".

Historiography

Historiography of Żydokomuna remains controversial. Works such as those by Jan T. Gross have polarized debate over anti-Jewish violence in Poland, Gross and his supporters characterizing Żydokomuna as an antisemitic cliché while to some of his critics Żydokomuna was a fact of history.

Historians Joanna B. Michlic and Laurence Weinbaum charge that post-1989 Polish historiography has seen a revival of "an ethnonationalist historical approach". According to Michlic, among some Polish historians, "[myth of żydokomuna] served the purpose of rationalizing and explaining the participation of ethnic Poles in killing their Jewish neighbors and, thus, in minimizing the criminal nature of the murder."

See also



Notes

References

  • August Grabski, Działalność komunistów wśród Żydów w Polsce (1944-1949) (Communist Activity among the Jews in Poland, 1944–1949), Warsaw, Trio, 2004, ISBN 8388542877.
  • Krystyna Kersten, Polacy, Żydzi, Komunizm: Anatomia półprawd 1939-68 (Poles, Jews, Communism: an Anatomy of Half-truths, 1939–68), Warsaw, Niezależna Oficyna Wydawnicza, 1992, ISBN 8370540260.


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