Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and Its Aftermath

By Joshua D. Zimmerman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Polish Government-in-Exile
and the Final Solution

WHAT CONDITIONED ITS ACTIONS AND INACTIONS?
DARIUSZ STOLA

The Polish government-in-exile and its policies toward the Jews have been the object of substantial scholarly interest. Thanks to the efforts of historians and to the relatively rich amount of available sources, the topic has arguably become the most thoroughly researched aspect of Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust. Through extensive queries on specific issues, substantial scholarship has accumulated while discussions have matured from an exchange of accusations and apologetics to that of a dialogue. 1 In this essay, I shall present several major factors, both external and internal, that conditioned the Polish government-in-exile's policies on Jewish matters during the period before and after the Final Solution became known. In the period 1939–1941, the question of the future postwar status of Polish Jewry dominated discussions in London, while from 1942 on, the priority shifted to the question of how to react to the German Final Solution and relevant Jewish demands. In both periods the London-based government also addressed a number of issues related to Jewish refugees and soldiers in the Polish Armed Forces. Even well after the Holocaust became known such contemporary problems attracted the attention of Polish émigré leaders.

The Polish government-in-exile was the legitimate successor of prewar Polish governments and was recognized as such by its allies. Yet the government- in-exile operated under highly unusual conditions. It resided far from Poland, as a guest and refugee in London, it had no control over its territory or population, which were subject to occupation by two totalitarian regimes, and it was waging war. Its major asset—the impressive underground structure inside occupied Poland—was not fully controllable, while the coalition providing its political base was loaded with tensions, at times on the brink of dissolution. These

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