Poland, the cultural center and home of Eastern European Jewry with its 3.5 million Jews, is now Judenrein, the result of a historical process pressed by the Polish government and the majority of Poles between the World Wars, taken to the next logical step of extermination by the Nazis in their five years of havoc, and finished by the postwar Polish government and people with pogroms, anti-Semitic campaigns, and forced emigration. One way or another, the Jews are gone, unless one counts the 8,000 to 10,000 scattered throughout the country. The Jews had lived longer in Poland than anywhere else in Europe. The Yiddish world, the Yiddish kingdom, had stretched from Amsterdam to Vilna and from Strasbourg to Odessa. It has been called the largest empire in the history of Europe, lasting almost a thousand years, without a king, a parliament, or an army.
After World War II many Poles acknowledged without regret, that Hitler had solved their Jewish problem. The Polish government sealed the verdict in 1968. And most Poles take the disappearance of the Jews for granted. Of those few Jews who remain, most are aged and dying and many pass as Gentiles in hope they will be left alone. Although the Preservation Council has erected and affixed at least 2,500 monuments and tablets throughout Poland in commemoration of Poles killed by the Nazis, the government has exerted great effort to eradicate all memories of the Jewish martyrdom. It has effectively prohibited the special identification and citing of Jews as victims of the Nazis in writings about the period, in monuments, in camps, and in commemorations. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, for example, is not identified in specific terms, but described rather as a revolt of the national Polish resistance. The exhibitions in the camps conform to the rules; the role of the Jew hardly figures in them. And not one of the four killing centers (with almost exclusively Jewish death counts) contains a state museum; not one is publicized; and all are virtually impossible to find. No official guidebook or information exists on those four.
Poland today seems vast compared to other parts of Europe, and its varied climate and geography make it a fascinating country to tour. One is constantly reminded that its economy is still a rural one, based on peasant farms