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

By Joshua D. Zimmerman | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 19
Jewish Responses to Antisemitism
in Poland, 1944–1947
NATALIA ALEKSIUN

The experience of anti-Jewish violence in Poland profoundly affected the daily lives of Holocaust survivors in the immediate postwar period. Shlomo Hershenhorn, who headed the Office for Aiding the Jewish Population (Referat do Spraw Pomocy Ludności Żydowskiej), formed in August 1944, argued that tackling the acute problem of providing protection to Jewish survivors was even more urgent than providing aid to Jewish children or camp survivors. 1 Yitzhak Zuckerman, one of the leading figures of the Zionist movement in Poland, a member of Dror, and a representative of the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland (Centralny Komitet Żydów w Polsce, or CKŻP), established in the fall of 1944, described violent antisemitism as the most important element of the postwar Polish reality. 2

This chapter examines the effects of anti-Jewish violence on Polish Jewry from the time of the liberation of eastern Poland in late 1944 to the consolidation of Communist rule in 1947. The survivors, using the Holocaust as their reference, reacted to various anti-Jewish excesses as one step removed from genocide. With the trauma of the Holocaust deeply seared into their psyches, both individuals and communities developed strategies for coping with a sense of physical danger. Ultimately, the Jewish experience in postwar Poland led in many instances to the decision to emigrate. 3

I shall thus analyze both individual and communal responses to antisemitism in postwar Poland and their effects on the Jewish perspective on and participation in the political events in the country. I will also examine the strategies that the survivors, their institutions, and their representatives employed to deal with antisemitism. 4 On an individual level, anti-Jewish violence significantly influenced survivors’ decisions about their future and their identity. On a communal level, violent antisemitism largely shaped the behavior of major

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