Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 To the Present

Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 To the Present

Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 To the Present

Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 To the Present

Excerpt

As I began to write this book in the middle of the 1990s, some people advised me not to pursue the subject. One such advice giver was the late Lidia Ciołkoszowa, a culturally assimilated Polish-Jewish woman and a well-known figure in the Polish émigré circle in London. Although Mrs. Ciołkoszowa was acutely aware of the complexities of the problem due to her own experiences in interwar Poland, she saw the issue of Polish anti-Semitism as a painful subject and exploring it as opening a Pandora's box.

In the past Polish scholars felt constrained from undertaking scholarly examination of the nature of anti-Jewish prejudices for fear of harming the good name of Poland by revealing "dark aspects" of Polish treatment of national and cultural minorities. Furthermore, many Polish scholars for a long time rejected the notion of Polish anti-Semitism as an important political, social, and cultural phenomenon in the history of modern Poland. They omitted and minimalized its presence and impact on political culture, Polish-Jewish relations, and the experience of the Jewish community and rationalized it as a phenomenon rooted in objective grounds such as the size of the Jewish community and its intrinsic qualities. This approach persists in post-1989 ethnonationalistic historiography.

At the same time, in some Jewish writings and some corners of popular Jewish memory Polish anti-Semitism has functioned as a mythologized phenomenon. It has acquired the characteristics of a unique and ahistorical phenomenon, either assessed as incomparable to other forms of antiminority prejudice and other manifestations of anti-Semitism in Europe or wrongly and simplistically equated with Nazi anti-Semitic genocidal ideology and practice. These two different sets of assumptions constitute the main obstacles to scholarly analysis of the subject.

This book offers a new reading of the history of Polish anti-Semitism. In it I analyze the nature and impact of anti-Jewish prejudice on modern Polish . . .

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