"It's difficult to admit the obvious"
political world

Symbiosis and Ambivalence: Poles and Jews in a Small Galician Town

Jan Paczkis|Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This book covers the vicissitudes of pre-WWII Polish-Jewish relations in the town of Jaslicka, SW Poland (post-WWII boundaries), from a few centuries ago until the Holocaust. To begin with, the term "Polish nobility" spanned the magnate and the poor noble-in-name-only, and constituted the largest franchised class in Europe: 8-12% vs. 1-2% of other European states. (p. 58).

The Non-Terribblization of the Experiences of Prewar Polish Jews
By  Contrary to the likes of Heller's ON THE EDGE OF DESTRUCTION, the evidence doesn't support the awfulization of the Jewish experience. In fact, most of the time, Polish-Jewish relations were good. (p. xxi). Although both lived in a poor country, the Jews, on the whole, were wealthier than the Poles. (p. 64). Contrary to the common misconception about the Poles having ostracized the Jews and forced them into ghettos, it was the Jews who had, using modern parlance, self-segregated themselves. Lehmann comments: "We have seen that the Jews strongly marked themselves off from the Poles. The distinction between the Jews (yidn) and non-Jews (goyim) reflected the Jewish fear of Gentile intrusion, as well as Jewish disdain for the gentile world." (p. 124).

Negative stereotypes coexisted with positive ones, and weren't the exclusive provenance of either group. For instance, Poles had their folk tales about Jews using the blood of kidnapped Christian children, and Jews had their Hassidic teachings about such things as the Jews being God's ONLY people, and gentiles having no hearts (only an organ that resembles a heart: p. 93). Polish peasants at times thought of the exploitive usurious Jew, and at other times the benevolent usurious Jew. (pp. 71-72). However, even when Jewish usury was benign, the lot of the poverty-stricken Polish peasant could only breed resentment: "This (like any other) form of involuntary dependence typically gave rise to feelings of hostility and frustration." (p. 84).

The Endek-encouraged boycotts of Jewish shops, in favor of Polish ones, weren't practiced by most local Poles. (p. 82). This adds to similar testimonies elsewhere, and reinforces the premise that Polish anti-Semitism had been much more bark than bite.

During the Holocaust, the Germans came and took away the Jews, while the Poles were forced to stay indoors. (p. 147). This adds refutation to the notion that Poles tended to stand around and mock the Jews during such events. However, Lehmann follows the guilt-by-observation thinking of Michael Steinlauf and Jan T. Gross)(pp. 183-184). By some leap of logic, the Poles are now in a sense culpable for the Holocaust merely for being AWARE of the fact of Jewish deaths.

She mentions the Lemkos, some of whom considered themselves Ukrainians, and a considerable fraction of whom were pro-Nazi. (e. g., p. 141). Lehmann also characterizes the postwar killings of local Jews as the deeds of "local criminals, bandits, and soldiers". (p. 152).

In common with many authors, Lehmann portrays "anti-Semitism without Jews" as something profound, and fulfilling of some deep pathology. (p. 8). How about simply reputations of peoples in general going far beyond the confines of the time and place of their domiciles? (Consider, for example, manifestations of "anti-Polonism without Poles" in such places as China).
Copyright © 2009 www.internationalresearchcenter.org
Strony Internetowe webweave.pl