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

By Joshua D. Zimmerman | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 17
The Cracow Pogrom of August 1945
A NARRATIVE RECONSTRUCTION
ANNA CICHOPEK

The problem of antisemitic violence in postwar Poland has received considerable scholarly attention in the last two decades. Following Krystyna Kersten's 1981 analysis of the Kielce pogrom, several historical investigations into the subject were published abroad during the 1980s. 1 At the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, Polish historians began researching the history of the Jews in the Polish People's Republic, leading to the publication of several studies on Polish-Jewish relations in the immediate postwar period. 2 In the post-Communist Polish historiography of the 1990s, attention focused on the Kielce pogrom of July 1946, beginning with Boz.ena Szaynok's 1992 monograph. 3 In contrast, the first scholarly monograph on the Cracow pogrom of August 1945 appeared only recently. 4 In the following essay, I shall reconstruct the events that transpired in Cracow on 11 August 1945, examining their causes and effects and the role they played in the discussion about antisemitism in postwar Poland.


Polish Jewry in the Immediate Aftermath of World War II

Sources indicate that the wave of antisemitism in postwar Poland reached its peak in the years 1944–1946. These acts included, among others, robbery, extortion, and murder. It is, however, difficult to assess the number of victims. According to Israel Gutman, relying on official Polish sources for the beginning of 1946, 351 Jews were killed between November 1944 and December 1945 (including 15 in the Cracow voivodship.) 5 And in the period 1944–1947, scholars have found that more than 1,000 Jews were murdered in Poland. 6 According to contemporary press accounts, the perpetrators of this anti-Jewish violence were mostly simple people, uneducated. The “mob” and “hoodlums” involved appear to have been so-called average citizens: artisans, petty traders, low-rank

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