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Anti-Jewish Violence In Poland, 1944–1946 refers to a series of violent incidents that immediately followed the end of the Second World War in Polandmarker and influenced postwar history of Jews in Poland as well as Polish Jewish relations. The exact number of Jewish victims is a subject of debate but the range is estimated as 1,000 to 2,000 Polish citizens of Jewish ethnicity largely those returning to Poland after surviving the war on Soviet territory, but also those who survived the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe, were murdered, constituting 2 to 3 percent of the total number of victims of postwar violence in the country. The incidents ranged from individual attacks to pogroms. Partly as a result of this violence, about one half of the Jewish population (100,000–120,000 out of 180,000–240,000) left Poland by 1948.

Reasons for those deaths have been attributed to rampant and often indiscriminate postwar banditry and civil war, which cost the lives of tens of thousand of people on Polish lands. Jan T. Gross notes that "only a fraction of [the Jewish] deaths could be attributed to anti-semitism", but sometimes Jews were indeed targeted due to their ethnicity, because of the pre-war and Nazi-inspired anti-Semitism (including the blood libel rumors),, because of the concerns that returning Jews would reclaim their property, and resentment towards Jews, seen as overrepresented and supporting the consolidation of power of Soviet and Polish communist regimes, responsible for the repressions against the Polish civil society since 1939, Due to that last motive, among the Jewish victims of violence were the numerous Stalinist functionaries of the new communist regime, assassinated by anti-communist underground without racial motives, but simply due to their political loyalties.

Background

After the war, Poles and Jews constituted two communities with two different but both tragic war experiences, however the relations between Polish and Jewish communities worsened after the Soviet takeover of Poland in 1945. Polish Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust returning home were confronted with fears of being physically assaulted, robbed and even murdered by certain elements in the society. The situation was further complicated by the fact that there were more Jewish survivors returning from the Soviet Unionmarker than those who managed to survive in occupied Poland, thus leading to stereotypes holding Jews responsible for the imposition of Communism in Stalinist Poland.

Members of the former Communist Party of Poland (KPP) were returning home from the Soviet Union as prominent functionaries of the new regime. Among them, was a highly visible number of Poles of Jewish origin, who became active in the new Polish Communist party and the Ministry of Public Security of Poland. Their representation in Bolesław Bierut's apparatus of political oppression was considerably higher than their share in the general Polish population. Hypothesis emerged that Stalin had intentionally employed some of them in positions of repressive authority in order to put Poles and Jews "on a collision course." The underground anti-communist press held them responsible for the murder of Polish opponents of the new regime, thus fuelling the anti-Jewish sentiments among ordinary Poles who in general had anti-Communist/anti-Soviet attitudes and further strengthening mythology of "Żydokomuna" in Poland. Accusations that Jews are being supportive of the new communist regime and constituted a threat to Poland came also from some high officials of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. Pogroms spurred by blood libel rumours among lumpenproletariat — accusing Jews of kidnapping and ritual murder of Polish children — erupted in Krakow, Kielce and other Polish towns. Acts of anti-Jewish violence were also recorded in villages and small towns of central Poland, where the overwhelming majority of attacks occurred. The perpetrators of the anti-Jewish actions were seldom punished and shortly after the Kielce pogrom, violence against Jews had ceased. By the spring of 1947 the number of Jews — in large part repatriated from the Soviet Unionmarker — declined from 240,000 to 90,000 due to mass migration to the West and to Israel, coupled with the post-Holocaust absence of Jewish life in Poland. "The flight" of Jews from Poland was mainly motivated by antisemitism and political struggle between the Communist regime and the strong opposition to it.

Blood libel

Sporadic public anti-Jewish disturbances or riots were enticed by spread of false blood libel accusations against Jews in a dozen Polish towns - Krakowmarker, Kielcemarker, Bytommarker, Bialystokmarker, Bielawamarker, Czestochowamarker, Legnicamarker, Otwockmarker, Rzeszówmarker, Sosnowiecmarker, Szczecinmarker, Tarnowmarker The Kraków pogrom of August 11, 1945, was the first anti-Jewish riot in postwar Poland. Rumours of alleged attempt by Jewish woman to kidnap and murder Polish child and alleged discovery of thirteen or even eighty corpses of Christian children that supposedly had been found in Kupa Synagoguemarker served as a pretext to start the pogrom. During the riot, Jews were attacked in Kazimierzmarker, and other parts of Old Town, resulting in one death. Fire was set in Kupa Synagogue.

Kielce pogrom

A pogrom (the causes of which are still somewhat controversial) , coupled with the ritual murder accusations, erupted in Kielce on July 4, 1946. The rumour that Polish boy was kidnapped but managed to escape from Jewish captivity, and that other Polish children had been ritually murdered by the Jews ignited violent public reaction directed at the Jewish Center. Actions against Jewish residents of Kielce was provoked by units of the communist militia and Soviet controlled Polish Army who confirmed the rumors of the kidnapped Polish child. The police and soldiers were also the first to fire shots at the Jews giving civilians a pretext to join the fray. Pogrom in Kielce resulted in 37 people being murdered and many more injured but the number of victims does not reflect committed atrocities. Kielce pogrom was a turning point for the postwar history of Polish Jews where many concluded that there was no future for Jews in Poland. Soon after, Communist authorities allowed Polish Jews to leave Poland without visas or exit permits. and Jewish emigration from Poland increased dramatically.

Number of victims

A number of historians, including Antony Polonsky and Jan T. Gross cite the figures originating from Dobroszycki's 1973 work. Dobroszycki wrote that "according to general estimates 1500 Jews lost their lives in Poland from liberation until the summer of 1947" , but Jan Gross, the author who cites Dobroszycki, says that only a fraction of these deaths can be attributed to antisemitism and that most were due to general post war disorder, political violence and banditry. David Engel of New York Universitymarker stated that Dobroszycki "offered no reference for such 'general estimates'" which "have not been confirmed by any other investigator" and "no proof-text for this figure" exists, not even a smaller one of 1000 claimed by Gutman. Engel wrote that "both estimates seem high." Other estimates include those of Anna Cichopek claiming more than 1000 Jews murdered in Poland between 1944 and 1947 while Dr Lidiya Milyakova of Russian Academy of Sciencesmarker placed that number at 1500-1800. Similarly, according to a Jewish historian Stefan Grajek around 1000 Jews were murdered in the first half of year 1946. Polish historian Tadeusz Piotrowski cites 1500-2000 victims between the years 1944 and 1947 due to general civil strife that came about with Soviet consolidation of power, constituting 2 to 3 percent of the total number of victims of postwar violence in the country.A statistical compendium of "Jewish deaths by violence for which specific record is extant, by month and province" was compiled bythe Yad Vashemmarker Shoah Resource Center's International School for Holocaust Studies. The study used as a starting point a 1973 report by historian Lucjan Dobroszycki, who wrote that he had "analyzed records, reports, cables, protocols and press-cuttings of the period pertaining to anti-Jewish assaults and murders in 115 localities" in which approximately 300 Jewish deaths had been documented.

In the Yad Vashem Studies report, Holocaust scholar David Engel writes"[Dobroszycki] did not report the results of that analysis except in the most general terms, nor did he indicate the specific sources from which he had compiled his list of cases. Nevertheless, a separate, systematic examination of the relevant files in the archive of the Polish Ministry of Public Administration, supplemented by reports prepared by the United States embassy in Warsaw and by Jewish sources in Poland, as well as by bulletins published by the Central Committee of Polish Jews and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, has lent credibility to Dobroszycki's claim: it has turned up more or less detailed descriptions of 130 incidents in 102 locations between September 1944 and September 1946, in which 327 Jews lost their lives."

The data from the Yad Vashem study are reproduced in the table below.

Engel wrote that the compilation of cases is not exhaustive, suggesting that cases of anti-Jewish violence were selectively reported and recorded, and that there was no centralized, systematic effort record these cases. He cites numerous incidental reports of killings of Jews that for which no official reporting has survived. He concludes that these figures have "obvious weaknesses" and that the detailed records used to compile them are clearly deficient and lacking data from Białystok region. For example, Engel cites one source that shows a total of 108 Jewish deaths during March 1945, and another source that shows 351 deaths between November 1944 and December 1945.

Białystok Kielce Kraków Lublin Łódź Rzeszów Warsaw Other Total
Sept 1944 . . . . . . 1 . 1
Oct
Nov
Dec

.
.
.

.
.
.

.
.
.

6
.
.

.
.
.

.
.
.

.
.
.

.
.
.

6
0
0

Jan 1945 . . . . . . . . 0
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov

Dec








.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.









.
.
15
1
17
3
8
3
.
.
.









.
.
.
1
.
.
1
.
.
.
.









.
7
3
2
15
.
3
.
.
.
3









.
.
.
8
3
5
1
.
.
.
.









.
.
.
.
4
.
19
.
.
.
.









.
.
3
3
6
.
11
.
.
.
.









.
.
2
.
7
.
4
.
.
.
.









0
7
23
15
52
8
47
3
0
0
3









Jan 1946 . . . . . . . 1 1
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sept






.
.
3
.
.
.
.
.






2
.
2
2
.
51
.
.






4
.
20
11
9
.
.
.






7
12
.
.
5
.
.
3






5
.
2
.
1
.
.
.






.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.






.
.
.
.
.
3
.
.






5
.
5
2
3
.
.
1






22
16
32
15
18
54
0
4






Total 3 104 46 66 28 23 27 30 327


See also



Notes

  1. David S. Wyman, Charles H. Rosenzveig. The World Reacts to the Holocaust. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
  2. Joanna B. Michlic. The Holocaust and Its Aftermath as Perceived in Poland: Voices of Polish Intellectuals, 1945-1947. In: David Bankier, ed. The Jews are Coming Back: The Return of the Jews to Their Countries of Origin After WW II. Berghahn Books, 2005.
  3. A. Stankowski, Studia z historii Zydow w Polsce po 1945 roku, Warszawa 2000, pp.107-111.
  4. Jan Tomasz Gross, Revolution from Abroad Princeton University Press - Page 277
  5. Natalia Aleksiun. Jewish Responses to Antisemitism in Poland, 1944-1947. In: Joshua D. Zimmerman, ed. Contested Memories: Poles and Jews During the Holocaust and Its Aftermath. Rutgers University Press, 2003.
  6. Jan T. Gross. After Auschwitz. The reality and Meaning of Postwar antisemitism in Poland. In: Jonathan Frankel, ed. Studies in Contemporary Jewry. Oxford University Press US, 2005.
  7. Daniel Blatamn. The Encounter between Jews and Poles in Lublin District after Liberation, 1944-1945. East European Politics & Societies. 2006, Vol. 20, No. 4, 598-621.
  8. Manus I. Midlarsky. The Killing Trap: Genocide in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  9. Matthew J. Gibney, Randall Hansen, Immigration and Asylum Published by ABC-CLIO
  10. Stefan Grajek, Po wojnie i co dalej? Żydzi w Polsce, wlatach 1945−1949, translated by Aleksander Klugman, Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, Warszawa 2003, ss. 240. Citation in Page 254.[1]
  11. Bozena Szaynok. The Role of Antisemitism in Postwar Polish-Jewish Relations. In: Robert Blobaum, ed. Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland. Cornell University Press, 2005.
  12. Joanna B. Michlic. Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present. University of Nebraska Press, 2006.
  13. Michael Bernhard, Henryk Szlajfer, From the Polish Underground, page 375 Published by Penn State Press, 2004, ISBN 0271025654, ISBN 9780271025650. 500 pages
  14. Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust, page 130, (ibidem) Published by McFarland, 1998.
  15. Daniel Blatamn. The Encounter between Jews and Poles in Lublin District after Liberation, 1944-1945. East European Politics & Societies. 2006, Vol. 20, No. 4, 598-621. Pages 601-602.
  16. Dariusz Libionka, Antisemitism, Anti-Judaism, and the Polish Catholic Clergy during the Second World War, 1939-1945. In: Robert Blobaum, ed. Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland. Cornell University Press, 2005.
  17. p. 32
  18. [2]
  19. David Engel, "Patterns Of Anti-Jewish Violence In Poland, 1944-1946", p. 21 (second paragraph) Yad Vashem Studies Vol. XXVI. Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. (PDF 198 KB file).
  20. Michlic, p. 347.
  21. . Л.Б. Милякова Политика польских коммунистов в еврейском вопросе (1944-1947 гг.) (The politics of the Polish communists on the Jewish question in 1944-1947) [3]
  22. Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust McFarland - Page 136
  23. [4]
  24. http://www.notforthedead.pl/Site_2/homepage.html
  25. See, e.g., Antony Polanski. My Brother's Keeper? Routledge, 1989; Meyer Weinberg. Because They Were Jews: A History of Antisemitism. Greenwood Press, 1986; Jan Tomasz Gross. Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. Princeton University Press, 2002; Natalia Aleksiun. Jewish Responses to Antisemitism in Poland, 1944-1947. In: Joshua D. Zimmerman, ed. Contested Memories: Poles and Jews During the Holocaust and Its Aftermath. Rutgers University Press, 2003.
  26. Cited in Engel, 1998
  27. Jan Tomasz Gross, Revolution from Abroad Princeton University Press - Page 277
  28. Cichopek, The Cracow pogrom of August 1945, p. 221.
  29. Stefan Grajek, Po wojnie i co dalej? Żydzi w Polsce, w latach 1945−1949, (translated from Hebrew by Aleksander Klugman), Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, Warszawa 2003, pg. 254 [5]
  30. Lucjan Dobroszycki. "Restoring Jewish Life in Post-War Poland", Soviet Jewish Affairs 3 (1973), pp. 68-70. Cited in Engel 1998



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