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

By Joshua D. Zimmerman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Poland and the Polish Nation
as Reflected in the Jewish
Underground Press
DANIEL BLATMAN

Polish-Jewish Relations in the First Month of Occupation
through the Prism of Contemporary Diaries

On 3 September 1939, just two days after the German invasion of Poland, the president of the Jewish community in Lwów, Victor Chajes, recorded the following entry in his diary: “A central committee to assist soldiers, widows, and orphans has been established in Lwów. The Jews wanted a separate committee but I did not allow this. There is only one…. I annexed Jewish men and women to this joint committee…. Two days ago (anonymously, as a Polish Jew) I sent 100 crosses to soldiers from Lwów who were going to war.” 1

As the Soviet armies crossed the old eastern frontier border and entered Poland on 17 September, Chajes, who had been deputy mayor of the city since 1930, a banker, and one of the most conspicuous Jewish public activists in Lwów during the interwar period, added the following entry: “The Russian bombers are destroying almost all the cities of Poland. Stalin may enter Poland any day, since he must have concluded a secret agreement with Hitler, and will occupy half of Poland without resistance. It is going badly for my homeland.” 2

Chajes is not representative of Polish Jewry at large. His dual identity, which he notes on more than one occasion in his diary—the sense of belonging to Poland, its people, and its culture, while affiliating strongly with the Jewish community—was typical of a certain sociocultural stratum in interwar Polish Jewry. However, this identification with Poland and the grim fate the country befell in September 1939 surfaced among Jews in various social groups and political movements. “The country is full of patriotic fervour,” wrote the Hebrew teacher Chaim Kaplan in his diary on 1 September 1939. He continued: “All classes and all nationalities, even those that suffered persecution at the hands of

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