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Suitors and Suppliants : The Little Nations at Versailles

jan peczkis|Sunday, July 13, 2014

By way of introduction, author Stephen Bonsal was an American diplomat, journalist, war correspondent, and translator. It was in the latter capacity that he served President Woodrow Wilson during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. This book features informal discussions about such things as the Balfour Declaration, the relationship between Croats and Serbs, the ownership of the city of Fiume, the German confiscation of Schleswig-Holstein from the Danes, and the Polish delegation at Versailles. I now focus on the latter.

5.0 out of 5 stars

The German grab of Silesia, and the large number of German settlers recently planted in order to skew the upcoming plebiscite results, led to a prescient comment. The German conduct was but the first step in renewed German aggression. It would end with Germany being on the warpath again in 5-10 years. (pp. 126-127). [It ended up taking 20 years.]

Author Stephen Bonsal had various discussions with Endek Roman Dmowski, and, as a person capable in various intellectual and linguistic pursuits, became impressed with Dmowski's education and his facility in various languages. On January 3, 1919, Bonsal, having been sent to "feel" Dmowski out on the Jewish question (p. 123), reported the following:


(Quote) Dmowski took it very well, and, so it seemed to me at least, talked quite rationally upon the thorny subject...He [Dmowski] points out, however, that there are distinctive features in the Jewish problem of Poland which are not met with in other countries. To begin with, he asserts that the Ostjuden (Eastern Jews) are a peculiar, a most peculiar, clan, and that their activities and characteristics are very trying to those who must live in daily contact with them. "We have in Poland more than one quarter of all the Jews of the world. They form 10 percent of our population, and in my judgment, this is at least 8 percent too much. When there is only a small group of Jews in our villages, even when they are grasping storekeepers or avaricious moneylenders, as they often are, everything moves along smoothly; but when more come, and generally do come, there is trouble and at times small pogroms." (unquote). (p. 124).

Bonsal continues to let Dmowski speak, (quote) "We have too many Jews, and those who will be allowed to remain with us must change their habits; and of course I recognize that this will be difficult and will take time. The Jew must produce and not remain devoted exclusively to what we regard as parasitical pursuits. Unless restrictions are imposed upon them soon, all our lawyers, doctors, and small merchants will be Jews. They must turn to agriculture, and they must at least share small business and retail stores with their Polish neighbors. I readily admit that there is some basis in the Jewish contention that in days past it was difficult for them to own land or even to work the fields of others as tenants; that they were often compelled by circumstances beyond their control to gain their livelihood in ways that are hurtful to the Polish economy. Under our new constitution all this will be changed, and for their own good I hope the Jews will avail themselves of their new opportunities. I say this in their own interest as well as in the interest of restored Poland. Now, and I fear for decades to come, Poland will be too poor to permit one tenth of its population to engage in pursuits which to say the least are not productive." (unquote) (p. 124).


Author Stephan Bonsal finds great similarity between the views, concerning Jews, of Roman Dmowski, and those of Count Tolstoi (Tolstoy)--heard by the author during the 1905-1906 Russian revolution. (p. 124). However, he does not elaborate on the implications of Dmowski's quoted statements, and I do this now.

It is evident that Endek Roman Dmowski was not totally opposed to Jews living in Poland--far from it. Had 80% of Jews on Polish soil emigrated, as Dmowski wanted to happen, the remaining 20% would have amounted to 650,000 Jews--still one of the largest Jewish communities in the world!

It is also clear that, instead of making Jews into scapegoats, Dmowski realized that it was not the Jews' fault (or entirely their fault) that they were concentrated in certain occupations in a manner objectionable to Poles. In addition, Dmowski clearly believed that a substantial number of Poland's Jews could become integrated into the newly resurrected Polish nation. Comment Comment | Permalink
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